Jon Stolpe Stretched

What's S-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g me now?

Paterno and Grace: Is There Any Chance They Go Together?

One of the blogs that should have made my spotlight list was the People Of The Second Chance Blog.  This blog focuses on overthrowing judgement and liberating love.  Over the past several months, they have featured pictures like the one shown above of various criminals, thugs, and misfits who have killed, raped, and committed various sins.  The question always asked with these pictures is the same: “Who would you give a second chance?”  The blog asks readers to post their comments but to also post their thoughts on their own blogs.  When the opportunity to comment and blog about Joe Paterno came up, I thought it would give me a chance to “stretch” my own mind and heart a bit.  So here goes…

First, you should know that I live in Pennsylvania, and I am a Penn State alum.  While I didn’t graduate from the main campus, I’m still a Penn State and JoePa fan.  So as the news broke a couple of weeks ago about the child sex abuse allegations and the apparent cover-up, I was deeply saddened.  Is it really possible that Joe Paterno knew what was going on and didn’t say anything?  Is this how it’s going to end for a man who has meant so much to so many players, students, and fans?

I haven’t read many of the reports or seen many of the TV interviews, but I’ve heard enough from the water-cooler conversations at the office and the passing radio reports that there was obviously inappropriate activities happening up in Happy Valley.  And Paterno even admitted that he should have done more to speak up and stop what was going on.  So why didn’t he speak up?  Was he protecting his friend?  Was he protecting his football program?  Was he protecting Penn State?  Was he protecting his own name?

The Bible says that a good name is worth more than any riches (A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.  Proverbs 22:1).  In a week’s time, a name that was synonymous with greatness, values, and winning has been all but destroyed.  Paterno was fired for his lack of action.  He’s been all over the newspapers, internet, and television where he’s been labeled a hypocrite.  He was removed from a list of names in line to receive a prestigious award from President Obama.  And I heard yesterday that his name was removed from a championship trophy.

The morning after Paterno was fired, I talked with my son about the importance of standing up and speaking out when things happen around us that are wrong.  Whether or not you’re a kid in sixth grade or a nationally known football coach, it can be hard to speak up.  But these recent events are a great reminder that we can’t just sit on the side lines and pretend that things around us are always perfect.

So I guess this brings me to the question on the poster.  Do you think Joe Paterno deserves a second chance?  Do you think there’s room for grace in the middle of these awful allegations?  I guess I fall on both sides of this thing.  On the one hand, our actions (or lack of action) have consequences.  There’s no getting around this.  If the allegations prove true, many kids lives were forever blemished.  You cannot overlook this.  Having said that, I believe that there is still time for Paterno to make the most of this situation.  First, he can come clean on whatever else he may know related to these allegations.  And second he can do whatever he can to make things right – especially for the families of those who were most closely impacted.  So yes, I believe that there is hope, grace, and second chances for Paterno.

What do you think?  Have you ever been guilty of failing to speak up?  Does Paterno deserve a second chance?  Drop a comment here and be sure to stop over at the POTSC blog to add your input to the conversation.


November 16, 2011 - Posted by | blog spotlight, stretch, thoughts


  1. I’m torn on whether to give him grace. I don’t know his motivation, but the appearance is that it was to protect his name and his chance at the wins record. So I struggle with it.

    Comment by LarryTheDeuce | November 16, 2011 | Reply

    • I get it Larry. I think we all are probably guilty of this though in some way or another. If nothing else, we all fail. Do any of us really deserve grace? I guess it’s a good thing we ultimately aren’t the decision makers when it comes to grace. God’s grace is enough for me, for Larry, and for Joe Pa.

      Comment by jonstolpe | November 17, 2011 | Reply

  2. I don’t know much either…since i’m not a fan of college football..GASP!!!!! i know…i’m a shamed! lol…

    seriously though….giving people a second chance is easy…(when we don’t know them personally and the acts didn’t happen to us.)….that’s where i’m skeptical….and concerned…

    I’m not worried about ME giving him a second change…..i’m worried about the lives that were specifically abused and affected by it…..can THEY forgive?…

    Comment by Arny Sanchez | November 16, 2011 | Reply

    • I guess that’s an interesting and individual question for each of the victims. It would be pretty tough on a human level. This is one of the things that amazes me about the Amish families from the Nickel Mine community who choose to forgive the man who came in and killed many of their kids.

      Comment by jonstolpe | November 17, 2011 | Reply

  3. Good grief, Jon!

    Thank you! Thank you for reminding me to talk to my son about the consequences of inaction! I talk so much about him understanding that there are consequences for any decision to act (as do all parents, I imagine) that it didn’t even dawn on me to teach him failing to act can also be a grave injustice.

    I am thanking God today for reminding YOU so that you could remind me.

    The concept of action in the face of injustice is actually SO important to me that I HAVE told him that, if necessary, the only thing I would bail him out of jail for is civil disobedience. He’s nine so the concept is just slightly beyond him, but it’s never too early to start teaching!

    Now – to answer the question you posed…I don’t recall a time when I should have spoken up and didn’t; however, I can recall times when I really had to think about it – and my action was later than it should have been. Those experiences help me to act more quickly now, although not in haste.

    As for Mr. Paterno – of course he deserves a second chance. Not a second chance to coach but I don’t think that his entire legacy should be denied. He accomplished his greatness before his decision not to act. I don’t think pasts should be able to be erased…I think of all the things I would have lost.

    Life is messy and so is grace. I chose grace.

    Proud to be POTSC!

    Comment by FaithChaser | November 16, 2011 | Reply

    • First of all, Welcome to the the Stretched Community, FaithChaser! I appreciate your thoughtful comment. I can definitely think of times when I should have been more vocal in speaking the truth. It makes me want to kick myself when I realize that my silence may have contributed to the fall or pain of others. I agree with your comment on Paterno. Our actions do have consequences, and I don’t believe he should ever coach again, but I’m also for grace!

      Comment by jonstolpe | November 17, 2011 | Reply

  4. I think everyone deserves grace. Heaven knows if God could offer me grace and a second/third/four hundreth chance, others deserve it too. There is a big difference in grace and consequences. If Paterno knew what was going on and did little to nothing about it, then there are consequences he must endure. However, grace is a whole different animal. If grace could be offered Peter, who denied Jesus, grace should certainly be offered to JoePa. I wrote about this here:

    Comment by Leah Adams | November 16, 2011 | Reply

    • Thanks for sharing the link along with your thoughts!

      Comment by jonstolpe | November 17, 2011 | Reply

  5. The whole point of grace is that we don’t deserve it. When we rationalize, justify and talk as though we can earn or deserve grace, we miss it. Grace is received by those who know and acknowledge they need it. To be forgiven (receive grace) is one thing, to set justice to rights is another, and taking the redemptive turn in life (which implies often radical changes) is another thing yet again. Appropriating grace may well mean finding a new life in which the old relationships, occupations, temptations, reputations are surrendered – as painful as that may be. But that is the path to new joy.

    Comment by Dad | November 16, 2011 | Reply

  6. “The whole point of grace is that we don’t deserve it.” Great quote and reminder, Dad. For some reason, we think we own grace when it ultimately comes from God. I guess part of my question or wrestling is how can Joe Paterno or even Sandusky be shown grace in the midst of such heartache and pain. Sure it’s easy for the fans to forgive quickly, but what about the families who experienced such pain. It will be interesting to see how things unfold. Thanks for sharing!

    Comment by jonstolpe | November 17, 2011 | Reply

  7. […] I posted about Joe Paterno, and I wrestled out loud about whether or not he deserves a second chance and about whether or not […]

    Pingback by Me and Grace: Is There Any Chance They Go Together? « Jon Stolpe Stretched | November 17, 2011 | Reply

  8. […] 1.  Paterno and Grace: Is There Any Chance They Go Together? […]

    Pingback by November 2011 Top Posts « Jon Stolpe Stretched | December 1, 2011 | Reply

  9. Jon, great post.

    The Joe Paterno situation is really sad. Great coach but a failure in following through with an accusation caused his career to end.

    I think we all need second and third and fourth chances. Not that we deserve a second chance but God, through His son, has given it to us.

    However, we need to make sure we do not take advantage of the second chances. I was reading about the paralyzed man and the friends that lowered him through the roof. It was interesting to see what Jesus had said to the man. He told him to “Go and sin no more, less something worse happen to you.”

    I had never seen that before. But it was eye opening.

    Comment by Joe Lalonde | December 4, 2011 | Reply

  10. I love POTSC and this whole series they’re doing… And I’m totally mad at myself for not jumping in on this series… I’ve been too busy putting off the post I’m writing for them… Thanks for writing this Jon!

    Comment by Dustin W. Stout | December 11, 2011 | Reply

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