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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Less Than Gold

Last week, I watched in awe (and some sympathy) as a young woman Olympic athlete wept after her competition. Later, I saw a man similarly discouraged at the sidelines. This scene was repeated over and over during the succeeding days. A millisecond or one little mistake in performance made all the difference. The athletes were devastated.

So were the news commentators, and their countries’ hopes for another gold medal.

To my great surprise, the young lady who was crying got several silver medals, including the performances where she cried. Boo-hoo? The man who was so discouraged also earned a silver medal. If this is failure . . . . Second in the world! Have you seen the competition? If you come in second, you have bombed out?!!!! What a mentality!

All that pressure on the shoulders of kids in their twenties or thirties (You can guess my age!), a nation’s hopes, the commentators dinners, etc. etc. riding on a young person’s performance peaking at just the right time, their doing their personal bests at that hour, on that day . . . . And, we expect it! Plus, we expect their competitors not to peak that same hour, that same day.

Is this good? Is it even realistic? Is it fair to the athletes?

I understand perfectionism. It has its good points and bad points. It’s great to strive for very good performance—in anything, not just sport. But, it’s negative to expect perfection of one’s self or others and not be satisfied with less.

The truth is that no one can be the best all the time, not even Usain Bolt. No one is perfect. No one always peaks at the most important meets. No one is more than human.

So why do athletes cry about getting silver? Why do sportscasters down athletes for not getting the gold? Why does a country put so much pressure for gold and look down its nose at less?

What is wrong with a bronze medal? What’s wrong with coming in 15th in the world? Isn’t that good? Do we realize what it takes to qualify for an Olympic team in the first place?

How about Christian athletes like Oscar Pistorius, the blade runner, who was thrilled to be included in the team and compete? Wasn’t he great?!!! Their South African team came in last in the final relay race. This guy has no feet, no lower legs, but he competed against the best in the world! In my book, that’s success!

Maybe we should change our thinking a little. Maybe we need to look at God’s perspective on life and success. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. (Joshua 1:8)

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