The Pleasure of Perseverance 

image of hurricane clouds over Atlantic Ocean

Overcome

Photo: Hurricane Irma by J. Wilder Bill

Getting through each day parallels participating in a combative sport. We train for what is expected and invest into preparations for the worst. As I write, the state of Florida is in lockdown, preparing for a hurricane that will pass through by September 11th. Power outages are certain, water lines are sure to be turned off, massive trees always destroy houses and block roads. This is followed by flooding, inhabitable housing, and the inability of emergency vehicles to reach those in need. Interestingly, the strongest hurricane on record revolves around 9/11, which is also an emergency phone number.

To understand perseverance, I compare Tom Brady, Rafael Nadal, and Michael Jordan.

A common thread is their perceiving each baby step toward their completed goal as an accomplishment. Nadal ignores the scoreboard during a match, explaining, “You just try to play tough and focus point for point.” His “motivation is tomorrow, just one day at a time….” Jordan focuses on the next play, saying, “I never looked at the consequences of missing a big shot…. When you think about the consequences you always think of a negative result.”

Studies show we release a feel-good chemical when we reach our goals. The more often we complete an objective, the higher the levels of dopamine are in a particular area of our brains. Those increased levels provide a sense of accomplishment, inspiring us to take the next step.

We have the ability to increase our dopamine by mentally rewarding ourselves for doing a good job before reaching our final objective. Brady credits himself with an accomplishment for daily workouts. “I just love working hard. I love being part of a team. I love working toward a common goal.” Nadal enjoys the daily grind, explaining, “The glory is being happy. The glory is not winning here or winning there. The glory is enjoying practicing, enjoy every day, enjoying to work hard, trying to be a better player than before.”

Hard work earns respect from peers. Emotional support boosts dopamine levels. Jordan states, “I want to be perceived as a guy who played his best in all facets, not just scoring. A guy who loved challenges.” Brady says, “My job is to play quarterback, and I’m going to do that the best way I know how, because I owe that to my teammates regardless of who is out there on the field with me.”

A confident winner is unmoved by lack of support. Jordan is inspired by defeatist. “If you accept the expectations of others, especially negative ones, then you never will change the outcome.” Nadal dismisses criticism, stating, “No one is perfect. Everybody does stupid things.”

Joy comes from finding a purpose in the effort. “I’m not out there sweating for three hours every day just to find out what it feels like to sweat,” says Jordan. “Mentally, the only players who survive in the pros are the ones able to manage all their responsibilities,” provides Brady. Nadal “always work[s] with a goal and the goal is to improve as a player and a person. That finally, is the most important thing of all.”

They ignore their personal needs. “When you’re one of the leaders of the team, there are no days off,” says Brady. With regard to physical discomfort, Nadal explains, “I learned during all my career to enjoy suffering.”

These athletes use failures to demonstrate how high they’ve risen. Jordan counts every glitch in his career to motivate himself to improve. “If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them, everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” According to Brady, “I’ve never gotten over one loss I’ve had in my career. They always stick with me.” He describes himself as “the kid that was the one hundred ninety-ninth pick that never had the body for it. People didn’t think I’d play one year in the NFL, and now I’m going on my seventeenth year.”

With perseverance, milestones exist each day. After losing, Nadal states, “I will do as I usually do. Tomorrow is going to be a day like any other day.” “I’ve never been afraid to fail,” says Jordan.

Dopamine fuels them with enthusiasm. Nadal says, “I am a guy who likes to do what I am doing with passion….” Brady likewise says, “I always try to do as much as I can do. I’m never a person that does not enough, because I’d regret not doing enough and think I probably could have done more. I probably go too far and have to reel myself back in….” Jordan “always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come.”

Throughout history, man is encouraged to invoke faith in perseverance. “Oh you who believe! Seek help with patient perseverance and prayer, for God is with those who patiently persevere.” Qur’an AYAH al-Baqarah 2:153. According to James 1:12 “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

Life is flavored with obstacles. Perseverance wins, every time.

Pray for Us

image of Elvis Presley's tombstone of Jesus and angels

Photo: Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee by J. Wilder Bill

Regardless of where you stand on today’s issues, there are times when a political leader gives a statement or supports an order that contradicts your views. The political structure allows opposing parties to create opportunities for themselves by escalating the public’s differing opinions. This gives them leverage to suppress the civilians’ sense of power.

Without belief in our abilities, we become divided. Without unity, a nation lacks strength.

Each of us can make a difference in the government. According to the philosopher and founder of Taoism, Lao Tzu, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, ‘We did it ourselves.’” It is through the people actively participating that leaders are able to serve.

Our duty as civilians is to offer support and prayers for authority figures of every level and position. “Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is,” stated Mahatma Gandhi. Prayer is action.

Within the Holy Bible, 1 Timothy 2:1-3 provides for man to give supplications, which embrace humility on behalf of another. We are to seek intercessions through angels and saints to exalt our pleas for governmental leaders to receive guidance. Saint Thomas More is the patron of lawyers, civil servants, and politicians.

Most importantly, we are to express gratitude for the benefits within our nation. Through prayers and thanks, the entire country acquires peace, goodness and honest dealings within its boundaries as well as with other countries. 1 Timothy clarifies that only God has authority over men, therefore it is proper to pray for political leaders to act with godliness and honesty. Leaders who make choices on behalf of the Divine promote the salvation of all mankind and support all men in their quest for knowledge of the Truth.

Faith grants strength. Trust in a Divine plan for placing those who are in office elevates our spiritual power. Our support influences their actions and grants them insights of Holiness.

Archbishop John Carroll, founder of Georgetown University, suggests first praying for God to have mercy on all nations, regardless of their views or actions, and then for the leaders to gain “heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life.” He includes all civil servants who are appointed and elected to have powerful protection in performing their duties “with honesty and ability.”

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

 Archbishop John Carroll

The English Prayer Book issues thanksgiving and blessings for the leaders of the United Kingdom by humbly acknowledging God’s mighty authority over man, praying for spiritual enlightenment of leaders, and then asking for eternal grace. Blessings are requested in saying, “look favourably on our sovereign lady, Queen Elizabeth. Fill her with your Holy Spirit so that she may love your law and walk in your way. Give her health and strength; and grant that after this life she may enjoy everlasting happiness in your eternal kingdom.”

Rule the heart of your servant Elizabeth, our Queen, so that she, knowing whose minister she is, may above all things seek your honour and glory. And grant that we and all her subjects may faithfully serve, honour and obey her according to your word and ordinance.

Book of Common Prayer

Even a moment of silence dedicated to the President, Congressmen, Senators and Governors having spiritual counsel boosts their capacity for benevolent judgment. As Mahatma Gandhi explained, “It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”

Prayers and support for government is a longstanding tradition. Unrest within nations tends to arise during periods of social transformation. It is unnecessary to evaluate and determine what decisions our political leaders need to make for us to enjoy safe, prosperous lives. Merely offering your request for them to be surrounded by Holy advisors and to open their hearts to Divine Love creates miracles. “Our prayers should be for blessings in general, for God knows best what is good for us,” stated Socrates.