By Yay Olmedo-Padua
A recent Time Magazine report hailed Japanese Kei Nishikori as the world’s number 5 male tennis player. He ranked 17 just a year ago.
Why the phenomenal rise? The writer attributed it to his United States training which enabled him to “unlearn the hierarchical strictures of Japan,” a culture steeped in a lot of literal and figurative bowing down―respect for elders, not saying one’s mind, nixing cursing and a constant search for quiet and serenity.
Says Kei, “I had to learn to get angry and surpass these athletes in competition.”
It must have been difficult for Kei to balance himself between two conflicting influences. Seems to me like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde battling for lordship within.
Don’t most of us struggle with the same dilemma as we confront our everyday situations?
At home and in church, we get to be reminded: “Respect your elders.” “Obey the rules.” “Do not be rude.” “Be kind and patient and considerate.” “Be mindful of others.”
Yet when it comes to sports―and we’re all encouraged to dabble in at least one―players are trained to be aggressive, trash-talking, harsh and disrespectful; all because they need to intimidate and cause their opponents to capitulate or surrender even before the game is played.
Mass media magnify competitive behaviour. Observe how hyped up everyone becomes―as if screaming bloody murder―as Manny Pacquiao reduces his opponent to a pulp. Audiences roar in triumph or vengeance as football players clash with each other to either prevent or cause a ball to reach the goal.
And oh, how nations rejoice and go wild when their teams win championships.
We glorify champions and boo the losers.
Competitiveness and aggressiveness indeed bring you far in the corporate world; no wonder everyone refers to the workplace as a dog-eat-dog world. I almost gave up under abusive and terroristic bosses―but for the grace of God.
But is it really all about trumping or beating someone, keeping score, enjoying adulation, wielding power, or being able to make others bow down in submission to you, especially if you’re playing this game called life.
Listen to nine year old Robby Novak, subject of Jim Denison’s article, “Kid President’s Pep Talk Goes Viral”:
“If life is a game, aren’t we all on the same team? If we’re all on the same team, let’s start acting like it. We got work to do. We can cry about it or dance about it. I don’t know everything. I’m just a kid. But I know this, it’s everybody’s duty to give the world a reason to dance. So get to it!”
Robby suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta―characterized by brittle bones. He has so far been through 13 surgeries and been fitted with steel rods in both legs.
Truly, Christ has revealed Himself to little children. If we heed Jesus, we would, more than anything, gain wisdom, not just to win competitions or succeed in our careers, but to use our gifts to make a difference, no matter our limitations.
In fact, Jesus is not keeping score. He’s not pitting us against each other. He just needs our faith and obedience. Regarding our sins, He says: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalms 103:12)
This should give us a fresh start, to use our talent for His glory. Then we can shine, for His name’s sake, especially in this game called life―no longer ruled by guilt or angst or the need to get even or bring someone to his knee.
So Kei, let your aggressiveness remain in the tennis court.
Off court, let Christ direct your life. Life is too precious for us to cause others grief.
Take it from Robby: “Create something that will make the world awesome.”