Daily Devotional: Friday, December 2 - The Human Side

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” — 2 Corinthians 12:10

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We all know the last couple of years have taken a big toll on us — mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. We’ve all struggled.

That includes athletes, who’ve had to undergo a lot as they’ve been subjected to quarantine regulations, COVID test requirements and even competing “in the bubble” without fans. As we’ve observed these brave people keep showing up for competition in the face of all these behind-the-scenes challenges, we’ve also started to see the toll things have had on them. We’ve watched more moments when they became emotional or spoke honestly about the stress and strain they’ve been through — Olympic and Paralympic athletes in particular. They had their four-year prep cycle messed up and, for the summer athletes, their Olympic and Paralympic experience delayed by an entire year.

We saw Simone Biles have to pull out of most of her Olympic events as she cited mental health issues that were negatively affecting her performance and would endanger her safety. We saw Mikaela Shiffrin have the worst Winter Games performance of her career as she went through her first Olympics following the sudden death of her beloved dad.

It’s been a lot. And the sad part is, even though we’ve never felt these athletes be more relatable (as we can all identify on some level with how they felt), there was still a ton of criticism. The humanity of these people in these moments was seen by some to be a sign of weakness and inability to cope.

And all this made me wonder, do we really give each other the permission to be human? Is it OK to supposedly fail in the eyes of the world for the sake of authenticity? Perhaps we’ve become so accustomed to athletes being the strong ones that we’ve forgotten they are just people like you and me — with feelings and emotions and struggles too.

Just read the Psalms or the story of our Savior in Gethsemane, and you’ll notice that the Bible is clearly OK with the fact that it’s OK to sometimes not be OK. That there are times when life gets hard and we suffer. And if we don’t allow for the fact that this is evidence of our humanity, then we are ignoring one of the key tenants of Scripture: Strength is found in weakness. Victory is achieved in overcoming challenges.

Perhaps as a coach or a player or a fan of sports, you need to be reminded today that it’s all right to be human. To be honest with yourself and others about the fact that you aren’t strong right now and you need the space and support to work through the situation. We need to learn to make room for the fact that emotional and mental health is never worth sacrificing just to meet some expectations or to get a win.

We all need some extra grace and kindness in these challenging times, especially those who have endured a lot just to give us all some entertainment and to play the game or sport they love.

— Katherine Singer

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