More than a Game - July 6, 2021

net-ball-imageI would like to spend the next month discussing the transforming power of virtue. I made this discovery about 15 years ago; once I started studying how important virtues are to athletes I started to make it part of my teaching philosophy.

Bill Bennett said in The Book of Virtues, “The brave person is not the one who is never afraid … courage is a settled disposition to feel appropriate degrees of fear and confidence in challenging situations … It is also a settled disposition to stand one’s ground.”[1]

So the question is, how do we become brave or courageous?
  • First, it is in knowing what you believe by gaining knowledge and having wisdom to apply it.
  • Second, by taking this knowledge and taking ownership of it, we must then apply it in all of our life. This requires making it more than a belief but making it a passion, in the case of courage the passion to do right. A passion that burns deep within you.
  • Third, by the continual practice of courage we become brave. In other words, acting brave becomes a habit.

    Aristotle said, “We become brave by doing brave being habituated to despise things that are terrible and to stand our ground against them we become brave, and it is when we have become so that we shall be most able to stand our ground against them.”[2]
If we can better understand the enemy of courage, which is fear, it will help us to better value and cultivate courage. Thus, the key to developing courage is to understand its greatest enemy. Fear paralyzes us and often prevents action.

Fear comes from worry. Worry is usually extremely small compared to the size it forms in our minds and how much damage it does to our life. Yet worry unchecked grows into fear and fear then often prevents us from acting or doing the good we are commanded to do.

Worry is a thin stream of fear that trickles through the mind. If encouraged, it will channel out so wide that all our other thoughts will be drained and only fear will be left inside us. Worry divides your thoughts and prevents you from being focused and single-minded. It is a major distraction. Once your mind is divided, it is incapable of giving all needed resources to the cause at hand. It weakens you and makes your determination and resolve weaker.

Worry takes the joy from life. Worry often focuses on things we can’t control or things that are unknown. Since we can’t control them or can’t know them, it is silly to focus on them or worry about them. Worry about the weather, worry about what other people will think of you or worry about the stock market are all useless. You can’t control these things, and worry won’t change them one bit. Focus on what you do know. Focus on what you can control. Now when this is our thrust, we have our center of attention on where we can have the most impact.

Worry provides us with no benefits but leads to many problems. It just adds to the burdens we carry. These burdens weigh us down as we go through life. Remember, the biggest worries we face are the ones that usually never come to pass. Also keep in mind that worry is blind and refuses to learn from the past. Rid yourself of worry and put up a roadblock to fear.

Worry is so very destructive to playing your best tennis. Most people fear losing because of what others will think of them if they lose. Compare this to thinking constantly about how to be your best and play your best. Worry is an emotion that can sabotage your ability to think rationally and logically. Therefore, emotions make great cheerleaders but poor guides.

[1] Bill Bennett, The Book of Virtues, p441-442
[2] Ibid p441