If you’re like me, you can probably only name a few of your teachers and coaches from grade school and high school who had a significant impact on your life. That’s not very many people considering the fact that you spent 12 years in school and only a handful of teachers and coaches made a dramatic difference in your life.
What made these few teachers and coaches so special was that they cared enough to push you beyond what you thought you were capable of doing. They were bold, creative, confident, resilient, and had a positive can-do attitude. And they wouldn’t take no for an answer because they believed more in you than you believed in yourself.
There was one coach who had a significant impact on my life. His name was Bob Daugherty. He was my wrestling coach during my sophomore year in high school. Daugherty was a taskmaster who constantly bullied me and my teammates. Every practice started with a grueling workout. Then we were forced to endure repetitive drills on the fundamentals of wrestling.
There were multiple times during our workouts when we were in severe pain from the exercises that we were forced to perform. While we were complaining and groaning about the pain, Daugherty would walk around barking, “It’s only pain. It’ll go away in five minutes. Quit acting like a bunch of sissies.” (He actually used a different word than sissies, but it would be inappropriate for me to repeat that word in this publication.)
The year that Daugherty was my coach, I held the record among my teammates for the most takedowns. I only lost one wrestling match that year. I got beat by a tall, slim farm boy who was a lot stronger than he looked. At one point during the match, his knee crashed into my head and I was momentarily dazed and confused. It took me several seconds before I knew what was going on. I lost that match by one point.
Coach Daugherty forced us to learn the fundamentals and to get in better shape than we had ever been before. His workouts were planned and regimented to the point that we had very little freedom to do what we wanted to do. He knew that it was important for a person to accept and experience less freedom in order to become something greater than what they already were.
There are certain freedoms I had to voluntarily choose to relinquish in order to attempt to become a champion wrestler. I had to choose to give up the freedom to eat whatever I wanted. If I wanted to succeed as a wrestler, I had to adhere to a very restrictive diet, so I could get down to and stay within my weight class. I had to give up the freedom to be easy on my body, sit around and watch TV, neglect my health, and hang out with my friends after school. I had to give up the freedom to avoid pain and discomfort. Instead of taking advantage of the freedoms I was accustomed to, I chose to submit myself to a grueling daily schedule of diet, exercise, and training.
Here’s the key concept that I want to emphasize: By consistently choosing to give up your freedom, you become more responsible and you are eventually able to become a much better person and achieve more than you would have ever thought was possible.
Last week, I wrote about a movie in which a champion boxer, Rocky Balboa, taught a young boxer a valuable lesson. Rocky told the boxer that the primary person that he’s up against in the boxing ring and in life is himself. Rocky’s point was that before any of us can successfully move forward, we have to first do battle with ourselves by overcoming our own limitations, faults, and fears.
As a reminder, here’s what I wrote last week concerning our biggest enemy — the person that we see in the mirror every morning:
What is it that gets in the way of our daily battle with the person we see in the mirror every morning? Our biggest enemy is pride, the one root passion that everyone struggles with. We were all born with a strong tendency toward pride, the mother of all sins. And because of our fallen human nature, combined with the individual unique traits we were born with, the environment we grew up in, and our life experiences as children and young adults, each of us also developed a primary fault which caused us to become attached to and adept at one of the other six root passions — anger, lust, envy, gluttony, covetousness, or sloth.
So how do we overcome our pride and our primary fault? The answer is that we have to be willing to make a conscious decision to give up the freedoms that come with those faults.
With regard to pride, what freedoms do you think you need to give up so you can become a better person? Here are some suggestions of what freedoms a person must be willing to relinquish in order to overcome pride:
• The freedom to feel superior to others.
• The freedom to be self-righteous toward others.
• The freedom to be defiant, intolerant, vain, and boastful.
• The freedom to be impatient and unforgiving.
• The freedom to be dishonest, hypersensitive, and conceited.
• The freedom to be stubborn and blind to advice.
• The freedom to be revengeful.
I don’t know about you, but I like the feeling of being superior to others, and I actually enjoy being defiant and intolerant. I like being impatient because I get my way more often when I’m impatient with others. I like being stubborn because I don’t like other people telling me what to do. And every so often I take pleasure in getting revenge against someone who deserves it. These are all qualities that make the man I see in the mirror every morning my own worst enemy. Unfortunately, that man is never going to experience any significant improvement in himself or in his life unless he is able to overcome his own pride.
Now be honest with me. If you gave up all the above-mentioned freedoms, would you become a better person? Would you be happier and more content? Would you be more pleasant to be around? Would your relationships with others improve? Would your relationship with your Creator improve?
We were taught at a young age that God gave each of us a special gift — a free will. Unfortunately, that gift is a double-edged sword. Adam and Eve found that out the hard way when they defied God by giving up their freedom to stay away from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
The first step to overcoming your pride is daily prayer (including the daily Rosary and the Litany of Humility) and the frequent reception of the sacraments (including daily Mass and Holy Communion, if possible). But that’s not enough. There must be a conscious effort on your part to give up the freedom to be self-righteous and to feel superior to others, as well as the freedom to be defiant, intolerant, vain, boastful, impatient, unforgiving, dishonest, hypersensitive, conceited, stubborn, revengeful, and blind to advice.
It’s not easy to give up these freedoms. Because of our fallen human nature, it’s almost as though there is a gravitational force that pulls us toward them. That’s why it’s so important to include daily prayer and the sacraments with our efforts to voluntarily give up these destructive freedoms.
More on this topic next week.