Sunday, March 02, 2014

Toughness, Strength and Grace (P. A. Black)

Mental toughness and emotional strength.
How do we rate in either of these qualities? And how do we define and measure them? I’m sure psychologists could provide descriptions and evaluations.
Although a layman in such matters, I’ve recognized mental toughness in others when seeing it in action and have marvelled as emotional strength made its presence felt.

The Sochi Winter Olympics are now history, and our Canadian competitors did us proud, treating us to golden moments, silver linings and bronze delights—all cause for celebration. Sure, some athletes’ dreams completely dissolved, while others’ hopes melted into the consolation of lesser success.

Freakish tumbles and falls and lower than expected scores no doubt hammered the psyche and gnawed away at the confidence of certain of those athletes who had worked long and hard to get where they were. Who could blame them for feeling dejected and wallowing in the emotional blues!
But that’s not what I heard in some interviews with our Olympians. Their responses to their disappointments nudged me to adopt this topic. Perhaps you picked up on similar points as I, in following the media coverage. I’ll mention only a couple of situations, rather than recounting a raft of difficulties and disappointments. Positive perspectives often shone through.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, our ice dance silver medalists, hoped to cap their ice-dancing career by winning gold. That didn’t happen. However, they expressed satisfaction that they had given their absolute best. Commentators remarked that they’d laid down a gold medal performance in their final skate. The couple warmly congratulated their American friends and rivals, Meryl Davies and Charlie White, who won gold. That’s the spirit­­­—mental toughness and emotional strength at work.
Whereas public and social media recorded gripes that the Virtue-Moir team and Canada were robbed through biased judging or alleged collusion between Russian and American judges, Scott and Tessa demonstrated a mature attitude and a balanced perspective.
Despite issues of possible divided loyalties on part of their coach, their mental toughness, in part, enabled them to give that stellar performance, and emotional strength enabled them to accept the judges’ scoring. Whether or not the couple now have doubts about the judging and coaching wouldn’t change the fact of the strength and grace they showed at the time.
These qualities are akin to the spiritual quality of grace. A genuinely gracious response to disappointment, especially if there’s reason to suspect someone has worked against us or inadequately for us, shows not weakness but strength.
History was made when Canada’s Jennifer Jones team was the first in Olympic ladies
Courtesy of CBC
curling to complete a round-robin tournament undefeated. At that point the semi-finals and finals were still to be played, and the matter of mental toughness came up in conversation between Jones and CBC’s Jian Gomeshi. Compared to Canadian spectators the Russians are extremely loud and vocal, yet Jones said that she and her team had trained themselves to shut out the shouting and concentrate on their game.
The exclamation mark was put to the Jones team’s mental toughness and ability to concentrate on the matter in hand, as their historic undefeated status at Sochi climaxed in their gold medal win.  
Shutting out a cacophony of conflicting and competing voices to concentrate on a matter in hand is a tough task for me. But isn’t that what life requires of us? We should know and understand what’s going on around us, and yet maintain our focus on what’s required of us.
Mental toughness, emotional strength and living in grace and demonstrating it also require us to understand ourselves – being cognizant of what’s going on inside us. Developing those skills and qualities will greatly help us in becoming faithful followers of Jesus Christ, who supremely demonstrated those qualities.
We are urged, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). 
His—the supreme gold medal ‘performance’!
Peter A. Black is a freelance writer in Southwestern Ontario, and is author of “Parables from the Pond” – a children's / family book (mildly educational, inspirational in orientation, character reinforcing). Finalist – Word Alive Press. ISBN: 1897373-21-X.His inspirational column, P-Pep! appears weekly in The Guide-Advocate. His articles have appeared in 50 Plus Contact and testimony, and several newspapers in Ontario. Peter’s current book project comprises a collection of 52 column articles.

Raise Your Gaze


Glynis said...

Thanks for this, Peter. I noticed many gracious athletes who seemed truly grateful for their achievements and those of their mates. There seemed to be a lot of 'cheering each other on' episodes, too. Sure, it must be disappointing to not get the 'gold' but what stellar performances these athletes gave when you consider the minuscule time or point differences between 1st and last place in some instances! I loved the stories that surfaced about true sportsmanship and family support and I am also looking forward to the amazing feats of the Para-Olympics! And yes, I need to remember that although I am not an Olympian by any stretch of the imagination, I need to train myself spiritually and shoot for the Gold that Jesus has set before me! Great post, Peter.

Susan Harris said...

I liked this post for two reasons:
1.In my quest to meet my own writing deadlines I missed the ice skating competition, actually, all the Winter Olympics competitions except the last few minutes of the Men's Hockey Gold moment. This post gave me a glimpse into Canadian victories.
2. I find the area of Emotional Intelligence fascinating, as I believe it is the true mark of maturity.
Peter ties in it nicely to God's word, and shows how we can be encouraged to live in an emotionally intelligent manner.

Peter Black said...

Glynis and Susan, thank you for your encouraging comments and insightful perspectives.
I think the mutual support exchanged between some athletes, even though their sport at times situates them as rivals, serves as an instructive example for the Christian community. (Hmm, and maybe for politicians too!) ~~+~~

Tracy Krauss said...

Thanks for this 'timely' post. Enjoyed it

Peter Black said...

Thanks Tracy. ~~+~~

Carolyn R. Wilker said...

I too missed the Olympics, not choosing the get up so early, but also I watch little television. Thank you for an enthusiastic post on those athletes who make us proud, even if they don't always get the "gold" they went for. Just like us in both our writing and our acceptance of difficult situations.

Alan said...

Peter, the comments say it, don't they. Not many of us make the gold, but there is always the hope of the gold we all may receive at "the End."

Thank you. You give and have given so much to so many.

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