Cam Newton is taking some heat for his Super Bowl post-game press conference appearance Sunday night, but I’m wondering if this is an opportunity for grace.

If you didn’t stay up for the post Peyton Manning vs. Cam Newton Super Bowl press conference on Sunday, I’m sure you’ve heard about it, watched the coverage, or read an article about Cam’s post game appearance. If you haven’t, here’s a quick summary: an understandably disappointed Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton spent less than three minutes answering reporters’ questions with downcast eyes and sullen demeanor before leaving the press conference hot seat.

Needless to say, he’s getting some flack for his behavior. Some are calling it a raw display of authenticity and emotion, while others are hurling names like cry baby, sore loser, and even “Incredible Sulk.”

While it may be legitimate criticism that Cam should have led with a better, perhaps more professional attitude—and it definitely affirms the “actions speak louder than words” idea—I’m wondering if we can show a little grace to Cam Newton in the middle of his story.

The Benefit of the Doubt for Cam Newton 

Let’s recap.

Cam Newton is 26 years old. After just five seasons playing in the NFL, he’s garnered the attention of the nation—and even Peyton Manning, known by players as “The Sheriff”—for being a talented young quarterback. Cam has lead the Carolina Panthers through one of their best seasons, culminating in a Super Bowl appearance. It’s the biggest game of his life thus far.

Not just that, but Cam describes his team as family, a fittingly warm feeling for someone who shares the Panthers jersey with Michael Oher—you know, of “The Blind Side” fame? Oher’s story is all about finding a place on the football team like it was his own family. For Cam, the Panthers aren’t just a football team— Cam probably felt as if he had let down his family.

And, let’s be honest, in order to make it to where Cam Newton is professionally, you have to hate losing and have an incredible drive to win. All the emotion wrapped up in the Super Bowl—even just for being there in the first place, let alone the disappointment of losing—didn’t have a chance to be curated before Cam went live nationally.

Oh, and one more thing: Cam’s abrupt withdrawal from the press conference may have been a good choice. Knowing his own state, perhaps he took himself out of the situation to prevent himself from saying or doing anything worse.

Grace For Cam’s Story—And For Yours

Grace is a beautiful, messy, wonderful, annoying thing that we all want from each other but nobody wants to give to each other.

Cam Newton and I share a birth year; we’re both 26, and yes, I have to keep myself from the “what-am-I-doing-with-my-life” thought. But I am wondering about how I would have dealt with that much pressure. And I am thinking about how many times I hope for grace for my own story.

Like that time I had a bad attitude about losing that argument.
Or the millionth time I said something sarcastic without thinking.
Or when I thought some not-so-nice thing about a not-so-nice person.

I hope to get grace from other people for these moments (and more!), yet I struggle to give it when people don’t measure up to my standards. When I first heard about Cam’s behavior, I was annoyed, and disappointed that Cam acted the way he did when he should have known better. I mean, isn’t sportsmanship the first thing they teach you in third grade gym class when you get hit in the face with a dodgeball? Cam’s behavior was something I deemed less-than-perfect for national live television—and perhaps rightfully so. (Also, I still don’t like dodgeball.)

Grace doesn’t mean approving or excusing one’s behavior. It does mean not giving up on them because they messed up; it means you move forward in relationship with them, recognizing the behavior maybe wasn’t the best choice they’ve ever made. It’s sticking with them, helping them and loving them toward better choices.

I am not actually friends with Cam Newton, so I can’t be committed to grace in a real relationship with him. But instead of raking him over the coals for sulking on Sunday night, perhaps we can use our corner of the Internet to show Cam grace, and push each other to a practical understanding of grace for his story…and for your story, too.

In fact, that’s what we here at Shattered want all of our stories to do. We hope that by reading the stories we share, you can gain a better understanding of grace—and how it works in real life for your story and in others’ stories. And even Cam Newton’s.