Today’s blog posting may feel more like a rant. I hope not, but I guess it is what it is. I’m feeling very protective toward someone I don’t even know.
The facts are that 24-year-old Simone Biles has withdrawn from the all-around final at Tokyo 2020, citing concerns for her own mental health. The situation is unfolding daily, but my greatest concern is the piling on of critical public opinions regarding a life we know little about. Simone may be the world’s greatest gymnast, but the spotlight of the Olympics is very limited in its ability to show us the person herself. And that’s what Simone is: just a person.
As unsuspecting kids who knew no better, many of us were taught: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Dumbest. Line. Ever. And totally unbiblical. The Bible is replete with warnings against the careless misuse of the tongue, and of the irreparable damage which can be unleashed by an unbridled tongue. Today, of course, the tongue includes the keyboard.
Here’s what Simone says. I’ll employ her exact words here: “Whenever you get in a high-stress situation, you kind of freak out. I have to focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health or well-being. It just sucks when you’re fighting with your own head.” According to news media, the young woman broke down in tears as she explained her decision. Personally, I choose to take Simone at her word.
I understand that we as Americans have grown accustomed to not just winning but dominating in gymnastics. For nearly a decade this has been our story. Silver feels like a loss. I get it. But we must be really careful not to join in the pile-on of commentary when it comes to issues where we have no business rushing to judgment.
Social media can be incredibly cruel. As Christ-followers, you and I must never forget that, on the other side of our judgmental words, is a person. Not just an Olympian, or a potential winner, or a celebrity, or (worst of all) an object for my entertainment. Simone is a person created in the image of God.
We ought never join in on the shame game. Shaming another is always unfitting for resurrection people. We are the new creations! We are the edifiers! We are the eternally hopeful!
We ought never board the train that leaves from condemnation station. Even when the whole world seems to be getting on board, we must not. That’s not who we are, because we are in Christ.
We ought never hold onto a stone of critique after Jesus has told us to put it down. That’s right. Our first thought toward Simone ought to include vivid memories of all the times when we have “cracked” under pressure.
When it comes to my haughtiness and my mouth, Psalm 19:14 always fits the situation: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. O God, may it come to pass among us, even in 2021.
Dial it down a notch, America! We’ve got bigger fish to fry than judging Simone Biles. In fact, we ought to be praying for Simone. She is obviously enduring a very tough season of life.
I don’t know Simone Biles. Not at all. But I do know that she is young, and that she is under more pressure than most of us will ever even begin to fathom. I also know that we’re experiencing a mental health crisis in our nation, and in the church. Methinks this is the time for humble and gracious respect toward a young lady who has represented us well.
A person is a person. (Dr. Seuss was right.) We are not gods. Maybe if we get that straight, we’ll have some room left over for the one who is God.