I read a post today that was written in response to a New York Times article about celebrating the ordinary, versus emphasizing and defining success by the extraordinary. Reissing's blog post on Her.meneutics applied this same need for reconsidering the definition of success to Christians, which interestingly enough we touched on at Home Group on Monday. (I just love those parallels, don't you?)
Essentially, the point is made that not all of us will lead headline-worthy lives, gaining accolades and recognition the world over, but that we can consider our lives valuable because we live well. We serve, we love, we share grace, we touch those in our sphere of influence and leave them better than we found them. The NYT article wraps up with an anecdote about a woman who recently passed, noting that her obituary didn't regale audiences with a litany of impressive acts nor notable incidents, but rather shared stories from those who knew her, demonstrating that she lived fully via her relationships with others.
This got me thinking about the Olympics. (Stay with me here. I promise I will do my best to communicate that leap.) As I read and watch coverage of the games, so much of the commentary centers around these individual athletes and their reaction to their successes or failures (or that of their teammates, competitors, etc.). Some athletes have been bullied a bit, in my opinion, by reports that highlight less-than-graceful moments and/or facets of their presence and performance that are short of perfect.
To an extent, I think the celebrity clause can mitigate some of this negative press, in that Olympians choose a life path that requires being in the spotlight and having a responsibility of sorts to the public given their standing as role models. (The leadership aspect of their role is far more prominent for Olympians than for general celebrities. At least, it should be.) So some nitpicking is likely to be anticipated and a thick skin donned. But I think it's also worthwhile to consider that these are humans. Amazing, talented, gifted humans. But humans, nonetheless.
They train, they sacrifice, they carry hope and a nation's pride in their every move, and I don't think it's hard to imagine that it is straight up heartbreaking to deliver a sub-par performance or act unattractively in a moment of bitterness or upset. We all know when we screw up, and we know what it feels like to know you acted like a total bonehead. (There is only one man who doesn't know that feeling and could expect otherwise.) We've been there. And small scale or grand, there will be disappointment.
I do not intend to defend unsavory behavior or a lack of preparation, but I am suggesting a call for grace. I hope that we can suspend the desire to judge and scoff, and to remember what is likely motivating those actions and responses: hurt. Some are given the podium of celebrity and graciously accept the opportunity to live well out loud, so to speak. And while it may be clear the division between those high-profile extraordinary folks who embrace that opportunity and those who don't reveal their best, perhaps our focus should be on how we react, how we behave, and what we can learn from that situation for our day-to-day, ordinary lives.
Extraordinary as defined by the world is fickle and overrated. Living well for an audience of one...now that could truly change lives.
What do you think?