When I found out about my upcoming suspension, I questioned whether I should even play football again. Did I really want to go through something like that — to have a possible asterisk next to my name? I didn’t want to deal with what the press might say. As an athlete I have always lived my life within the rules. And although my conscience was clear of any wrongdoing, I was worried about what my kids would think and how they would react to it. What would my family say and what questions would they have to answer? What about the guys in the locker room whom I had a positive impact on over the last 15 years?
At first I took this as a sign. “Alright Lord, I guess this means I’m done.” If I just stepped away from the game, it would all go away and no one would know. But when I sought counsel from my wife, my dad and a few close friends, they all said the same thing to me: “Benjamin, if you have a desire to play, don’t let this be the reason you don’t.” All I could do was face it head on and tell the truth about what happened.
While this wasn’t a situation I ever would have hoped for, dealing with this suspension created a great opportunity for me to talk to my kids about integrity, perseverance, God’s sovereignty and facing the consequences for your actions, intentional or not. And this is an ongoing conversation we will have. Before I released my statement of the events, I sat my kids down and explained it to them. As a father, my biggest concern was for someone else to ask them about it before they heard it from me. So in our living room, we sat down together and prayed. We prayed about how my statement would be received, we thanked the Lord for the opportunity I have to play football again, and we prayed that God’s will would be done no matter what would come of this.
My greatest fear in life is to do something that brings shame on the name of Christ or the name of my family. As a human being, I am going to do, and have done, plenty of things that bring shame, but this fear keeps me from doing a lot of things I shouldn’t. In this situation, I feared that the guys whom I’ve tried to speak wisdom and life into over my years in the league would now think of me as a charlatan. Would my 15 years of longevity now be called into doubt because of this? I was really crushed by the whole thing, to be honest.
So when I made the decision to be honest, to tell the truth, and go forward with another year in the game even when it meant a suspension, I became proactive. I called and texted many of the players I had played with, as well as family members and friends, to let them know what was about to come out. I didn’t want to be playing catch-up; I wanted them to hear the truth from me. It was important to me to respect the relationships I had built over the years and hear what they had to say. And when I did, I was overwhelmed by their responses. They let me know I was someone of worth. Knowing how I try to live my life, they told me they believed what I was telling them.
Upon receiving such positive support and encouragement from those closest to me, I was reminded of a verse, which says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1). We don’t earn such a name by our own power. Yes, we have the choice to make good decisions or not, but it’s by God’s grace we’re able to. That is something to be proud of. It’s so easy to lose credibility and tarnish your reputation; we’re all one step away from stupid. And this was my fear as I chose to be honest.
I’ve always struggled with perfectionism. I have to understand that the goal of having a good name is not to be accepted by my Heavenly Father, or by anyone else for that matter. My goal of having a good name is to point others to the One who has the perfect name. I’m following Christ and aiming to become more and more like Him. There’s great purpose in pursuing a good name, but you can’t fall into the trap of wanting to earn pats on the back.
Yes, I’d rather this never happened, and I’m dreading the weeks I’ll have to sit out, but I can see God’s redemption of all situations and I’m thankful for the chance to be transparent, especially in my own home. When my kids look back on this, I hope they will have learned something about strength of character from their father. I hope that others can see my motive to honor Christ through my words and actions. Even though I’m far from perfect, I aim to represent Christ in every opportunity I’m given.
— Benjamin Watson, New England Patriots tight end
Benjamin Watson is a regular contributor to The Increase and provides monthly articles and opinions. Check out Benjamin’s Increase profile here: http://theincrease.com/author/benjaminwatson/
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