Jerry West and the burden of being thought a hero

You’ve probably heard about how Penn State hero Joe Paterno has tripped over the wake of destroyed lives of which he has had a large part to play. No longer is he the hero. He’s the goat. And a sadder more perverse thing I cannot dream of happening in college sports. I’m truly “speechless” from my computer.

I would guess one of the more currently heroic West Virginia natives would have to be former NBA star Jerry West. Pretty soon it could be Andrew Luck, the Stanford QB, and probable number 1 overall pick in the NFL draft next spring. But for right now, the man who IS the NBA logo (or rather the logo is him), probably takes the cake. 

I listened to a rare impressive local interview with Jerry a month or so ago. Then this article came out a few weeks ago regarding Jerry West and his depression. 

Some people like to be heroes until they are eventually, like Joe Pa, dethroned. Many others simply realize that they are not heroes. Role models for sure, but heroes is much tougher. That’s a burden that’s quite a bit too heavy to carry. 

Jerry West’s new book West by West: My Charmed Tormented Life apparently reveals the darker side of Jerry and his struggle through depression. 

Most people writing memoirs/autobiography want more money. But probably part of the memoir/biography craze is a desire to be known. For people to know the truth about them, that there is more going on inside of them than what everyone else sees. It’s hard to be a hero because we weren’t meant to be heroes. We were meant to be have dominion over the earth and be “vice-kings/queens” but not heroes (Gen 1:27-28). 

There is one hero to the story and his name is Jesus.

Deep down inside people will suppress that truth, but they can only suppress it so far. The burden becomes too heavy and out comes the junk. I think that’s why people like Steve Jobbs can give the OK on books which make them look less than “heroic.”It’s why I would want my depression story in any biography of me (not quite sure that would sell though…) 

Any book written about you or I would eventually paint us in less “heroic” colors than much of the outside world sees. And that’s OK. It doesn’t mean we necessarily think less of the person, but instead that we realize that they still need Jesus. A lot. Whoever they are, wherever they are, they still need Jesus. 

The burden of perfect and outwardly respectable performance for the Christian need not be ours to carry. Even though I think we do bear more of the burden than we let on (by refusing to recognize our weaknesses and sins), Jesus regularly speaks to us through His word and says, “Enough is enough. Let ME carry that burden (Matt 11:28-30).”

You can let others know your mess and how much you need Jesus because you don’t need to be a hero. You don’t need people to think more of you. In fact, in the end, we find it far more enjoyable for people to think less of us and more of Jesus. Deep down inside, even though I don’t where West stands with Jesus, I think that’s what his heart ultimately wants.

In the end, Jerry West and Tina Turner have a lot in common. One sings, and another one says, “We don’t need another hero.”

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