by Nicole Pramik
Most people love an underdog story, and one such story emerged recently from a rather unassuming event during the 2018 Winter Olympics. Curling, which tends to be unfairly mocked in the American public eye, actually made headlines as the USA men’s team won gold for the very first time, marking only the second time the United States has ever medaled in the sport. Seeing as the men’s team defeated some highly favored teams, namely Canada (not once but twice) and Sweden by a large, nearly impossible margin in the gold medal game, the USA men’s victory became widely known as the “miracurl on ice.”
Avid curling fan that I am, I followed the USA men’s team from their rocky start during the round robin games all the way to their golden finish. Aside from making for some very exciting television (and, yes, curling can be exciting!), I found myself gleaning a few life lessons along the way—namely the importance of perseverance, proper handling of criticism, and the quiet strength of humility.
Power of Perseverance
The USA men’s curling team didn’t give up, even when it came down to the proverbial wire. Their last game in the round robin, and their only chance to stay in contention for the semifinals, was against Canada, a team that had won several Olympic gold medals in recent succession. It was a daunting prospect, especially as the USA men’s team stood on the brink of defeat, having lost more games than they had won during the round robins. However, they didn’t throw in the towel (or rather, the broom). They played their best and ultimately decided to have fun. And I’d like to think that it was due, in part, to this attitude that they ended up topping some very strong teams.
Inevitably we will face obstacles in our lives, whether large or small, especially en route to our God-given dreams. I believe this is why the Bible encourages us time and again to persevere, as it seems inherent in human nature to want to give up. As Galatians 6:9 encourages, “Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.”
God is capable of seeing us through our setbacks.
Hence, it’s critical to never give up, even if the odds are not in our favor, as God is capable of seeing us through our setbacks and hindrances. (Though it’s important to distinguish between genuine perseverance in light of our God-given aspirations, as opposed to stubborn determination in spite of an obvious lack of planning, training, or natural ability.) If we are pursuing a personal dream that we know is within our gift set and that will bring glory to God, then we can rest assured that it’s perfectly acceptable to continue taking steps toward this goal.
Drawing on my own experiences as a writer, I know all too well the importance of perseverance. I believe God has gifted me with a talent, so I strive to use it as best as I can. This doesn’t always guarantee success, as I have had numerous proposals and manuscripts rejected. However, rather than resign myself to disappointment or refuse to ever write again, I continue to write and submit. I have finally been published over the years, and I seek to publish more of my work, especially my fiction.
Thus, if we continue to press on toward our God-given dreams, regardless of setbacks, it’s inevitable that we will see some successes along the way. As Baron Manfred von Richthofen once wisely observed, “Success flourishes only in perseverance—ceaseless, restless perseverance.”
The word criticism usually conjures up negative connotations when that’s not always true. While some criticism is mean-spirited, some is meant to be constructive—provided we choose to learn from it. The same can be true for rejection, which has become another dirty word in our modern culture. However, not all rejection is bad as it too can provide fertile ground upon which to learn and grow.
The USA men’s curling team members all faced rejection early on, long before they started on the road to the 2018 Olympics—they were even dubbed the “team of rejects” for this very reason. Prior to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, the United States Curling Association set new high performance parameters as a means by which to evaluate and craft stronger players in order to be more competitive on the world curling stage. None of the 2018 USA men’s curling team players initially measured up, including skip John Shuster, who had become a target for internet mockery for past Olympic blunders.
People write off criticism as a personal attack,
when in many cases that’s not the intent.
However, rather than fire back at critics or bemoan his fate on social media, Schuster admits that this initial rejection and criticism pushed him to become more serious about the game, get into better physical shape, and work to improve his technique and strategies. In time, he and the rest of those who would eventually become the team, worked to improve themselves and demonstrate that, with perseverance and hard work, they could be successful and better themselves. But were it not for receiving that initial rejection and criticism, this change might have never happened.
Thus, the best way to handle criticism is to view it as an opportunity to improve yourself. Sadly, too many people write off criticism as a personal attack, when in many cases that’s not the intent.
Through my past experience as a college English professor, I know all too well that some students viewed criticism as something to either refute or fume about (sometimes both). Some students took my constructive comments seriously and improved their work, while others assumed a mindset that they were above reproach.
Refusing to examine one’s self is a mark of a prideful spirit, and it can become a wall that can prevent one from ever truly learning. However, if we can sift through careless criticism and pay heed to criticism that actually bears weight, we can glean wisdom. As the writer of Proverbs observes, “The wise man also may hear and increase in learning, and the man of understanding acquire skill” (1:5).
The Impressiveness of Humility
Bigheaded isn’t a term you would use to describe the members of the USA men’s curling team. In fact, even when en route to the medal rounds, team member Matt Hamilton remarked, “Any medal is a good medal. We’re just going to go out there and play our best.” It’s refreshing to hear athletes admit that any victory is a good victory, even if it isn’t first place, rather than whine over not being number one all of the time. Hence, Schuster, Hamilton, and their fellow teammates all exhibited a humble attitude, even after winning the Olympic Games’ highest prize.
In this age of social media narcissism and shameless self-promotion, humility has become a bit of a dying virtue. Yet the Bible repeatedly urges us to be humble just as Christ Himself was humble and didn’t flaunt the fact that He was God made flesh. While the commonly held view might be that the loudest, brashest person garners the most attention, this isn’t the sort of attention that lasts or is even universally admired. Instead, such persons are a like a meteor—a brief flash in the dark that doesn’t have any lasting value.
He believed he was a
charming, dashing, witty,
I trust we all have had some experience dealing with less-than-humble people. In my own life, I was once friends with a man who, I later realized, suffered from narcissistic tendencies. He believed he was a charming, dashing, witty, intelligent person, and, in his opinion, it was a shame if anyone didn’t appreciate him as such. I eventually saw him for what he really was—an emotional, intellectual, and spiritual phony—and his lack of humility or willingness to admit he didn’t know everything was far from attractive.
People like this seek to approve of and elevate themselves through their own means, which stems from pride and an overinflated view of self. In contrast, the Bible instructs us to let God approve of and elevate us. “Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you” (James 4:10). While having good pride in your talents and accomplishments is fine, unhealthy pride comes from a spirit that rejects wisdom, others, and God.
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.” The reverse of this is humility. Just as the USA men’s curling team believed that “any medal is a good medal,” so we should believe that any accomplishment is a triumph and goes to the glory of God.
J.R. Miller once remarked that “Men want only the strong, the successful, the victorious, the unbroken…but God is the God of the unsuccessful, of those who have failed.” Hence, while the world’s view of success is measured in terms of egotistical attitudes and visible merits, this is vastly different from how Christians are to evaluate their lives. Rather than measure personal success in terms of what we can see, we should be striving to persevere under pressure, learn from criticism, and exhibit a humble, teachable spirit.
In the end, while it was great to have seen more attention shone on the sport of curling, I believe an even brighter light was cast on the virtues of perseverance, personal improvement, and humility. These are lessons we can all learn so that maybe God can work a “miracurl” in our lives.
posted on May 14, 2018
Meet the Author:
Nicole Pramik is a speculative fiction writer from Kentucky (though she is originally from Texas). Her works include The Guardian Trilogy, a fantasy series, and A Modern Apocrypha, a poetry collection. She has also served as a contributor for various volumes analyzing facets of popular culture with a philosophical slant, from SpongeBob SquarePants, to the films of Tim Burton, to Star Trek. She holds an MA in English (Creative Writing) from Marshall University and is a former English and Humanities adjunct professor. She is a self-proclaimed geeky bookworm who has fun with flags (technically known as vexillology) and harbors a love for EDM and curling. Currently, she is working on several speculative fiction manuscripts and hopes to see them in print someday. You can follow her on GoodReads.
Other Rivulet Collective articles by Nicole Pramik:
Stranger in a Strange Land