Monday, August 18, 2008

The Shame of Self-Importance

In a recent sports-news article, Dan Wetzel painted Shawn Johnson to be a virtual superhuman because of her continued positive attitude despite several near misses for the gold medal. He said of her, "Almost unnervingly nice, she is relentlessly positive, a one-person cheering session of smiles and dimples and big brown eyes."

I think that it is good that he points-out her attitude as an ideal, but the tone he sets seems to cast doubt on the reality of her decent nature. He writes, "[N]o one would blame her for showing a little disappointment and frustration," and "Johnson never stopped smiling and politely clapping for her opponents. A lesser person would succumb to human nature and secretly wish for slips and falls. Johnson is apparently not a lesser person." Mr. Wetzel obviously expects athletes to be self-absorbed. Our nation has been gripped by the "me culture." We are becoming so self-promoting that this reporter is incredulous about an athlete that isn't.

I know very little about Shawn Johnson or what drives her. I do know, however, that she exemplifies how a Christian should act. She is quoted in this article saying, "I know everything I went through to get here, and knowing what it takes, I want [opponents] to do their best also because they've given up their life to the sport. Even if I was in last place today and everyone else did their best, I’d be happy." This is the spirit of sportsmanship. This is the living-out of the golden rule. To put one's self in the other person's place and empathize with their situation, cheering them on. I was personally thrilled to see her obtain her silver medal. Before she took her place on the podium, she ran over to the gold medal-winning Chinese athlete and congratulated her, kissing her on both cheeks. Well done, Shawn. I will agree with Wetzel that she is a role model, not just for other Americans, but for other athletes as well.

That said, I have been pleased with all of our athletes, who have humbly won or lost. We have not trash-talked our opponents and have kept our disappointments low-key. We have expressed our admiration of other athletes on our teams and on teams from other nations. That, if nothing else, makes our American athletes great.

Mr. Wetzel, expect this attitude from our athletes. Expect this attitude from all people. Exemplify it in your own life (not that I know you don't). Let us understand that self-importance is a sinful and shameful attitude and that we are most worthy of honor when we are most humble.

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