As a life long Lions fan the beginning of this season made me pinch myself again and again. The constant comeback wins (the one in Dallas!?! Come on! You don’t even have to be a Lions fan to like that win), the dominant defensive line, and a unstoppable connection between Stafford and Johnson that was shaping up to be historical. Lions fans had been waiting a long time for this.
And then came the San Francisco. While there wasn’t a lot in the game to signal the coming slide of the Lions, what came after did. After the game the coaches, Jim Schwartz of the Lions and Jim Harbough of the 49ers, met for the post game handshake. What transpired next is largely based on the account of the beholder, but regardless of what really happened, Jim Schwartz did not like the way Harbough handled the handshake and chased after him in what looked like an effort to fight. The two exchanged words and were eventually pulled away from one another by those who stepped in.
Fast forward to Thanksgiving day. The game between the Lions and Packers was anticipated by most football fans, and Lions fans especially. In the third quarter Nhandamkah Suh, after a play was well over, removed himself for a play by shoving the head of an offensive lineman for the Packers into the ground and then intentionally stepping on the player. Rightly he was ejected from the game and suspended for two games.
In the following game against the New Orleans Saints the Lions could not control their emotions and showed the immaturity by committing senseless penalty and senseless penalty.
Many have bemoaned the inability of the Lions players to control their emotions in the midst of the game. Much have been made of Suh and the number of personal fouls he commits. According to many analysts, Suh could be one of the greatest defensive lineman to play the game, but that legacy could be nullified by his stupid play. For Suh, and for the rest of the team, their age has been the excuse to rationalize their immaturity.
While players must take responsibility for their actions, I believe the reason this behavior has continued for as long as it has stems from their coach, Jim Schwartz. Will Mancini says, “You can teach what you know, but you only reproduce what you are.” While Schwartz may be teaching his players the nuts and bolts of the game, the offensive and defensive schemes, and even the rules they seem unable to not break, based upon his own inability to control his emotions during a routine handshake after a loss, he is reproducing what he is.
To apply this principle to the Lions, if Jim Schwartz wants to see his Team play more disciplined on the field with greater maturity, that begins with him.
As leaders we have tendency to blame the faults of others in someone other than ourselves. The question we need to be asking is, “In what way am I contributing to that behavior/attitude/immaturity continuing?” Another way to say it, “Is what I see in others a product of what is in me?”
In thinking about discipleship in the church we must not be concerned with teaching new information. While information is good and important, it has only limited potential to transform a life and create greater allegiance to Jesus. More important to giving more information to another is the personal work we do in becoming more loyal to Jesus and to experience transformation in our own lives. We produce what we are. We will only be able to take people where we have been. We only will be able to help people experience what we have experienced.
This is good news. Many leaders and pastors can become paralyzed at changing an organization or large group of people. The good news is you don’t have to. If you want to see change around you, change yourself. Become who you want to be, and who want to see others become.
You reproduce who you are. So who are you?