Finding Purpose Outside Of Sports
Over the last few weeks, I have covered five reasons over Why I Run (and why you should too). If you go back through these posts, you will notice that I never mention that running gives me purpose. It can do a lot of things for the human body and mind, but I have learned, over a long period of time, that finding a purpose in a sport is a fleeting endeavour. Over the next few weeks, I am going to be extremely vulnerable as I recount my athletic career and the mistakes I have made trying to find my identity in sport.
Currently in our Worldviews class, we are discussing how human longing may be one of the most compelling evidences of a creator. No matter how much pleasure people pursue or achievements they garner, nothing can seemingly quench the emptiness and purposelessness they feel inside. Society today is pursuing hedonistic philosophies more than ever before; whether drugs, sex, alcohol, social media, or pornography, contemporary culture stubbornly refuses to give up hope in finding fulfillment in worldly things. Despite its greatest efforts, all of these things that provide short bursts of gratification have not increased the state of happiness in America. In fact, even before the coronavirus pandemic, mental health issues were at an all time high, affecting about ⅕ of American teens, and it continues to rise. Suicide rates have also increased a whopping 35% since the turn of the century, totalling approximately 48,000 people per year in the U.S. (that’s like if all of town and country committed suicide 4.5 times).
Others will try to find purpose in what society considers more “healthy” means such as school, sports, work, possessions, relationships, or hobbies. But even then, the lack of fulfillment is evident and it is not lost on even the most successful of people. Consider Tom Brady, quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Undoubtedly the most decorated football player to ever play the game, Brady has won six Super Bowl rings in his 20 year career and (as I am writing this) is currently competing for his 7th. After being interviewed by 60 minutes following his 3rd Super Bowl win, Brady questioned himself, asking himself, “Why do I have three Super Bowl rings, and still think there’s something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, “Hey man, this is what is.” I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think: God, it’s gotta be more than this. I mean this can’t be what it’s all cracked up to be. I mean I’ve done it. I’m 27. And what else is there for me?”
If arguably the most decorated athlete ever couldn’t find true happiness in his accomplishments – in all of the goals he obtained and the records he is breaking – how can other athletes ever feel fulfilled?
Unfortunately for me, in my constant desire for control, I have learned (am learning) the hard way that living for Christ, not performance, is the only answer for those athletes seeking purpose.