On Sunday I found myself sitting down with my husband to watch the Masters. Golf has been a thread loosely woven into our lives- my father-in-law was an avid golfer, my mother-in-law played (in fact, taught my father-in-law, her husband to play) and my husband plays (although very rarely now). Our boys enjoy the game although they do not play often. I do not play golf rather play “at” golf. (Is there a limit to how many strokes it takes a person to actually get the bloomin’ ball into the hole?) We do have an annual family golf outing on Black Friday (day after Thanksgiving). We have found a remote course where we can take our time (takes a long time to search for the balls, at least for my ball), laugh, trash talk and we won’t bother true golfers.
Watching the Masters, at least on the last day of the tournament is a tradition that we have enjoyed over the years. While we recognize some of the newer players, we do not follow golf as we did when my father-in-law was alive. (Many a Sunday afternoon found us visiting the folks for cocktails and watching the end of a PGA match before having Sunday dinner. ) So it was with surprise that we watched Tiger Woods “come-back.” Many of the commentators were choked up with emotion as they described Woods finishing the 18th and walking off the course into the arms of his family. I hadn’t paid much attention to Woods’ struggles over the years. When he had his first bout of difficulty, I remember thinking “typical of what happens with fame and fortune…” From what the different news organizations have said, he has struggled for many years with many issues: injuries, surgeries, personal. He has persevered and worked his way through the struggle.
I found it interesting that one of the post articles had pictures of Michael Phelps (Olympian, swimming phenom) standing behind Woods at one of the holes cheering him on. Apparently Phelps, another fame and fortune disaster who has turned his life around was one who was an “informal counselor” to Woods in the last couple of extremely difficult years.
I wonder if both he and Phelps realize their many blessings and extended grace in their lives? For both men, they had spiraled down after being on top of their respective games. It was at the bottom that they eventually realized the true nature of being on top; it is a precarious position. The irony is that one needs to remain humble (from the Latin humilis- to be low) to be elevated. There is an nice article in Pyschology Today explaining the difference of humility (a modest or low view of one's own importance) and hubris (exaggerated pride or self-confidence often resulting in retribution) by giving the example of the founder of Intel:
When Robert Noyce, the founder of Intel, was asked how he felt about being known as the “Father of Silicon Valley” he responded, “You know it makes me a little bit proud, and a little bit humble.” There is a sweet spot between hubris and humility that is the key to greatness.
Bob Noyce was like a rare alloy that blended ambition and confidence with conscientiousness and compassion. He was a humanitarian who rallied against corporate autocrats while building one of the most powerful companies in the world. Noyce created an egalitarian culture at Intel with as little hierarchy as possible. He was a very tough and demanding boss, but ultimately a real softie who was very empathetic, hated confrontation or having to say no. When you look closer you realize that these character traits are textbook for many people who achieve greatness.
Noyce refused to play dirty or fall into the ‘win-at-all-costs’ mentality that is so prevalent in corporate America, and every walk of life. It is such a shamethat he died of a heart attack in 1990 at the age of 62. Noyce had the chutzpah to believe that he could change the world (and he did) but also seemed to realize he was a flea in the bigger cogs of the universe and was very humble about his contributions.
I pray that Woods and Phelps have truly turned around their lives. To be respectable and respectful of others. To be humble and kind. To reach out to others in their needs and in our own needs. Sure they have had more opportunities than most in being able to comeback. Woods could certainly afford to pay the best doctors in the world to review his case and to offer a solution to his back pain. Although, having all the money in the world cannot always cure a person and certainly cannot cure an individual of self-doubt and self-loathing.
Afterwards, Woods was asked about the round he just played. He was quoted saying that he just kept plodding along. He recognized that one needs to “do all little things correctly….” and “be committed to it…”
Great advice for golf and for life.
It is the little things that matter.
Commitment is necessary for success.
We need each other in our triumphs and in our failures. As both men found out, they need one another to continue on a path of healing.
Made me think of the Great Master and His play book (Bible) which reminds us:
“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much.” (Luke 16: 10) Our human psychology doesn’t change just because the amount changes. We might be able to act differently temporarily, but in general, our character has the same response regardless of the instance; If we are impatient or testy or dishonest in small circumstances, we will also be impatient or testy or dishonest in larger ones. The principle applies not only with physical items or processes but also with the way we treat others: all people deserve respect regardless of their situation in life.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it; You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22: 37) We are called to be committed to God and to one another. Committed to loving with our whole heart, mind and soul.
“So, whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them…” (Matthew 7: 12) We know it as the golden rule. While we might say we want to be alone in our sorrow, secretly we want someone to just “be” with us in our difficulties. Conversely, we want to share with others and have them be glad for our good fortune. When another is going through a good or bad time, it is important to put ourselves into his/her shoes. To be empathetic to the situation. To love them through.
This week is Holy Week, the week that changed all humanity for eternity. It is a week that reminds me of the Great Master. The one who was committed to each one of us. The one who was willing to become lowly for others. The one who recognized that it is in the little things, that the big eternal questions are answered. And the one who was willing to experience the ultimate vulnerability of mock and scorn that allows each one of us to be vulnerable with one another and in turn experience true life.
What about you? What life lessons have you learned through sports or through others’ stories? Universal themes? Does Holy Week mean anything to you?