The Hardest “No.”
Maybe it is easy to say “No” to things that will obviously hurt us. We can say “No” to a deal that will cause us to go broke. We may say “No” to a food or an activity we dislike. But to say “No” to fame, “No” to money, or say “No” to public acclaim is rejecting things many wish to have. It goes against the human desire to be recognized as special or unique.
Simone Biles, world famous athlete, did it when she decided she wasn’t going to compromise her mental health for another gold medal in the competition in Tokyo. Understanding her human limitations, she went against public opinion and opted out of competing because she was emotionally exhausted. Many criticized her decision as she is thought to owe the world to always shine and be on top. What a cruel society this is, putting the weight of our insecurities and failures on someone else! I read on social media that some people were demanding she should return all that was invested in her as an athlete, paralleling her to a bank account that has to give us something in return.
Her decision to say “NO” uplifted mental health as a real public concern. As a public figure, it has so much weight for Simone Biles to come forward with an issue that is buried in a society that values perfectionism and stoicism. In a competitive society, vulnerability is looked down as weakness, disregarding the value of the inner knowledge of what can break us. At the end of the day, we are mere human beings with endless limitations. However, we like superheroes that can do things that ordinary fellow human beings cannot do. This is why some may look at her stepping down from competition as a defeat. But we know it was a victory to voice an “Enough” to not make her mental agony a spectacle.
Jesus was tempted by the devil in the desert after fasting for 40 days. The devil quoted scripture to tempt him saying: “If you are the Son of God…throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” (NIV Matthew 4:6) Jesus was not interested in temporary glory. His mission was to finish up a ministry of unconditional love and refused to give in to the temporary fame his jump from a high tower could attract.
I am convinced that in life, we will be confronted with moments that offer us public acclaim, money or fame in exchange for betraying our inner peace, our values or our health. May the divine help us discern and find it in ourselves to say “No” and choose ourselves always.
For more resources on supporting Mental Health go to: UCC Mental Health Network https://www.mhn-ucc.org/