“In that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may. Would that be an ignoble life?”” Plato, Symposium, 360 B.C.
Let’s imagine two nations being led by two individuals. Both nations are successful, but the character of one of the leaders is in question. One nation achieves peace and prosperity through a grand support system which uplifts each cooperative component. This nation compromises during conflict for the overall welfare of both sides. The second nation achieves success through a stampede of aggression, taking out any opposition along the way, at whatever cost, and the leader leads the charge with a stiff upper lip and a stern glare. Both nations achieve success – peace and prosperity, but consider their condition. Which nation will be filled with cooperative individuals? Which nation has a good impression of the road to success? Which nation is likely to produce future leaders with the qualities necessary to push that nation to the next level? Which nation’s success is likely to be an anomaly? Are athletes leaders of nations?
Athletes may not be prime ministers or presidents, but there is no doubt that they can have a profound impact on a nation. There are very few Canadians who do not know of, and are not proud to associate themselves with, Sydney Crosby. Who wouldn’t want to be associated with someone who was able to make an entire country roar with joy at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Crosby’s golden goal inspired millions of Canadians, perpetuating further the already astounding hockey environment in Canada.
*Canada’s reaction post golden goal. 2010 Winter Olympics
Tennis players in Canada have doubled since the success of Milos Raonic and the quality of play is only going up. This is quite obvious given the rise of young tennis prodigé Denis Shapavalov and his monster win over Rafeal Nadal. The success of a few can determine the actions of many, but the condition at the end of anyone’s success is of utmost importance.
What kind of place do you want to live in? If a nation, or a friend group, or a club, or a province, or a country ends up in a condition which promotes negative behavior at the end of a successful path would it be better for the success to have never taken place? Many of us have done things in order to achieve success which we do not agree with. You may have treated someone in a manner which you would not like to be treated yourself. Or many people for that matter, this could be a way of life for some. “Win at all costs”, we’ve all heard the phrase. This is no doubt a habit of a selfish individual. We all reap what we sow.
Consider a particularly talented individual, who through their success has gotten the masses pumped up to play soccer. This person trains hard and manages to win massive world series events in front of their home crowd, but they succeed while constantly bickering with the refs and flailing about pretending to be injured. The people pumped up to play soccer are probably also pumped up to bicker and flail. Even if they don’t care to admit it that impression of success is in there, along with the behavior associated with it. Imagine the influence of this player on other aspiring professionals. Would this create a good environment? That successful player may feel immense pride when they win, but would happiness follow? The journey is just as important as the destination and I believe, for everybody’s sake, inspiring along the way is best; lest we arrive at our destination in worse condition than we began.
*Cristiano Ronaldo: Real Madrid star displays his four Ballon d’Ors on the Bernabeu pitch before match against Granada
Inspiration could be considered a skill. It requires practice, it takes effort and commitment, and requires actively learning a variety of virtues. The cultivation of good character certainly takes time. Nobody can just decide to inspire and go out there on the court, or field, or cubicle and expect to influence anyone positively beyond their current potential to do so. I believe athletes in particular have an obligation to be good people because so many people pay attention to them. They are being constantly examined by crowds, coaches, and peers.
Please do not read this and revert to “it’s just who I am”. Everyone is born with a certain predisposition, we are all inclined to act different ways, we all grew up in different environments, but that does not mean that we cannot work on our flaws. If you have an anger issue and you’ve been smashing 10 rackets a year all your life, make it a goal to smash 5 rackets, and then 2 etc. Or maybe you have a difficult time learning from, and acknowledging those who better than you. Start reading good books, submerse yourself around good people who want to help. Make an effort.
There is no doubt that the inspiration must be real. Superficiality is easy to spot, and once it’s been identified your observers are likely to lose faith, making inspiring all the harder. You may have witnessed talented athletes win games with an unattractive attitude towards their opponent while playing, then walk off and shower them with complements in the post game interview. I think we all know which attitude is the genuine. If you don’t live the words you breathe, you can not have a real lasting impact. In fact most of the influence we have is not through speaking at all. Our actions have the most impact on others, because they can’t lie. At least they can’t lie consistently. You may be able to pull off a day or so without swearing in front of your child or hitting your racket on the ground, but if the virtues necessary to control yourself aren’t deeply ingrained in who you are there is little chance you will be capable of stopping yourself when things get heated. We cannot have a true lasting positive influence without being a real example. If you don’t believe what you are saying, it may be better not to say it at all.
“…I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called” Ephesians 4:1