Everyone and their brother has an opinion about our Olympic darling after she withdrew from the competition this week to focus on her mental health.
You’ve got one camp, who is praising her as a “Mental Health Hero,” claiming that her withdrawal from the Olympics is her greatest accomplishment yet. Everyone from Michael Phelps, to Justin Bieber, to Rory McIlroy have all voiced their support for Biles, relating to that degree of rarely-experienced global pressure. USA Today’s headline reads: “Simone Biles is a Role Model for Prioritizing Her Mental Health Over an Olympic Medal.”
Then, of course, you have the other camp, claiming that Biles “abandoned” her team in the moment of truth. That she knew what she was getting herself into, and it was irresponsible and inconsiderate to occupy one of only four highly coveted spots on the Olympic Gymnastics team, only to relinquish her responsibility to follow through on her commitment to her team, and her country. Matt Walsh said in his podcast that she was “an appropriate representation of a country that has gone soft.” While Piers Morgan tweeted that “Kids need strong role models not this nonsense.”
And if you’re looking for me to slam my gavel one way or the other, you’re just not going to get that from me. Because here’s the thing…I am exceptionally unqualified to do so…
The thing about mental health, is that no one can really no what is going on, inside. Especially from the perspective of fan – to – cultural icon, we know only what is presented to us from a highly regulated media machine. (Hello, Britney Spears and the #FreeBritney movement). But we just don’t know. Was it related to her sexual assault from her former coach? Was it another mental health issue? Was it simply related to the fact that the entire country had made her a diety status? Or, as some critics question, did she just choke?
I mean, Simone Biles was the face of the Tokyo Olympics. She was shouldering America’s hope, and after the year we’ve had, we all needed some hope.
And she was expected to win. Not just once, but win it all. A four-time Olympic champion, she walked into Tokyo being called the “Greatest Gymnast of All Time,” attempting and executing stunts and skills that had never before been done. She was BET’s Sportswoman of the Year in 2020, and is nominated for Best Female Athlete at the upcoming 2021 ESPY’s. She’s got sponsorships and brand deals worth millions. Biles was the “It Girl.” The “Sure Bet.” And she walked into that arena — alone, by the way — without her parents or anyone to support her, via the new COVID rules — and was expected to dominate the competition by a long shot.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never faced that type of pressure.
Regardless of how you feel about the outcome of it all, one thing that is glaringly obvious to me, is how willing society is to elevate these athletes or celebrities or movie stars to living idols. We’re making them gods, and tracking and watching and worshipping their every move — through social media, through the news, through tabloids. It’s not good. It’s not good at all. We put them on cereal boxes, we buy products they tell us to purchase, they speak out on social issues and influence the viewpoints and beliefs of younger generations.
We’re worshipping at their altar, which is a dangerous thing indeed.
Because none of us are God. We’re human. We fall short. And Simone Biles, god-status though she was, proved that….she was human. Which, she’s allowed to be.
Just like everyone else we’ve placed at diety-status .
Simone Biles, Justin Bieber, Lebron James, Adele…we have such rabid adoration for these idols because we’re in desperate need of heroes. We’re in dire need of someone or something to root for. We need good in the world. We need someone to place our hope in, especially living in the political and social tinderbox we find ourselves in.
We’re hungry for an example of someone who will rise above the odds, defeat the enemy, and save our day.
So it’s no wonder, that when our heroine of the day fails to do so, that people can’t help but talk, talk, talk and run their mouth in all directions.
One thing’s for sure – and this is coming from someone who was looking for saving in all the wrong places…the only hero that will never let us down is Christ, who has already won, and who is worthy of our hope and our trust.
I found that out at the basement of rock bottom, from a cot at the nurses’ station of an inpatient treatment facility.
He will never let us down.
But you already knew that.
Simone, God bless you, girl. I’m praying for you and I hope that you find the peace you’re looking for, and that you can drown out all the noise and clamoring opinions from those who placed you on a throne you never asked for.
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
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