On Monday April 29th, Jason Collins of the Boston Celtics became the first professional athlete to publicly admit that he is gay. His decision to come out is being heralded as a new era in professional sports. Some folks thought his decision was brave, others thought it a disgrace. Me, I thought it an act of genuine authenticity.
It is easy to talk about being authentic, yet live a lie. Most folks don’t have a clue what it really means. Real authenticity refers to the distance between us and other people. And we measure that distance by how willing we are to be real.
Being real can be extremely hard, because we worry about what others will say and think about us. Being real takes courage because we risk losing something: face, family, friends, jobs, and our reputation. For years, Jason Collins must have worried what his teammates, opponents, fans, and even family and friends would think, but he finally stepped out in courage and decided that being authentic is more important than having people’s approval. He will likely experience some loss. But as with Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O’Donnell, and Anderson Cooper know all too well, the benefits that come from living “real” are greater than not doing so.
Collins is quoted in sportsillustrated.cnn.com:
“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”
The courageous actions of Jason Collins will surely open the door for other athletes in all sports, and make it easier for others in all walks of life to follow in his path. When all is said and done, this decision will have much greater and longer lasting impact than anything he ever did on the basketball court.
Self-esteem comes from doing Esteemable Acts, and it’s an Esteemable Act to live courageously!
I’m Francine Ward and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to share them with me through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.