Are We Forever Flawed?

©Glowimages — model for illustrative purposes only

Guest blogger Ken Bemis commiserates with England defender Laura Bassett over the tragic finale to her excellent World Cup run — and takes a look at how we can spiritually respond to failure.

Those watching the recent Women’s FIFA World Cup semi-final game between Japan and England witnessed a cruel outcome to an otherwise competitive match.

England’s Laura Bassett misjudged a defensive maneuver that sent the ball into her own goal in the final minute of stoppage time and sent Japan on to the gold medal match against the United States. No competitor desires a game to end in that fashion, much less have it tarnish their reputation. Considered by many in the football community as a defender’s “worst nightmare”, the event rained on the parade of an otherwise stellar tournament by a player who was viewed by many as the team’s “rock” and a primary reason for England’s success in the tournament.

The empathy from players, coaches, fans and even the media has overwhelmingly embraced Bassett, and offered her encouragement. Yet, numerous headlines and media commentary gloomily speculate that this “nightmare” will “haunt her for the rest of her life.” The event even re-kindled negative emotions about England’s traumatic football history in similar major tournaments.

A mistake in an athletic game might seem trivial in comparison to the greater tragedies that confront us in the game of life. But regardless of where or how such tragedies occur, it is important not to be tempted into believing that such events define us. Failure to get a handle on how such events take form in our thinking, whether as an actor or witness to the event, can have devastating results. An extreme example is the tragedy involving Columbian footballer Andrés Escobar, who was murdered by a drunk fan several days after committing an error similar to Bassett’s in a 1994 FIFA World Cup match against the US Mens team.

US soccer star and sports commentator Brandi Chastain, who has experienced the humiliation of an own goal, challenged these temptations in the most appropriate manner in her post-match tweet to Bassett:

What sets Chastain’s response apart from others is not only her compassion for Bassett, but her ability to see beyond the incident and not allow it to define her view of Bassett. Her comments actually bring healing to the situation by reinforcing Bassett’s true character, not only in her own mind, but in the thought of Bassett and others who witnessed these events.

Chastain’s response reminded me of the words of Mary Baker Eddy, a pioneer in understanding the impact of thought on what we experience, who wrote: “Deducing one’s conclusions as to man from imperfection instead of perfection, one can no more arrive at the true conception or understanding of man, and make himself like it, than the sculptor can perfect his outlines from an imperfect model, or the painter can depict the form and face of Jesus, while holding in thought the character of Judas.”

Continuing the artist analogy, Eddy likened each of us to “sculptors, working at various forms, moulding and chiseling thought.” She asks: “What is the model before mortal mind? Is it imperfection, joy, sorrow, sin, suffering? Have you accepted the mortal model? Are you reproducing it? Then you are haunted in your work by vicious sculptors and hideous forms. Do you not hear from all mankind of the imperfect model? The world is holding it before your gaze continually. The result is that you are liable to follow those lower patterns, limit your life-work, and adopt into your experience the angular outline and deformity of matter models.”

Who on earth would want to shape their life after such a faulty model?

Rather than allow some event to haunt our future, Eddy suggested the remedy is to “first turn our gaze in the right direction, and then walk that way. We must form perfect models in thought and look at them continually, or we shall never carve them out in grand and noble lives.”

It may be tempting, and even popular, to lash out at the imperfections that consume our experiences and our media, which can all too often promote and empower a negative concept of mankind and the universe. But rather than dwell on imperfections or faulty models, and enhance the tragedy of events, we have the ability to shape what we experience in a different direction.

Whether you are Laura Bassett on the world’s grandest pitch, or experience challenging events in a less visible way, we improve what we experience as we pattern our thinking from perfect models, The sooner we are able to do so, the sooner we can experience the perfection we all seek to attain in our lives.

Ken Bemis is a Christian Science practitioner, part-time blogger, and avid sports fan.

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