Friday, 3 August 2012

How we measure greatness

Like many folk I have been caught up in the excitement of the Olympics. So much raw talent and humbling dedication goes onto the making of these athletes, the chance for victory and the risk of failure are so closely knitted that the courage of competing is itself simply breathtaking. As a nation, I hope we keep the focus on the human achievement that simply being in the Olympics represents and we don't succumb to the temptation of measuring success in medals and broken records.   

In the global arena, my hope is similar: that we measure greatness not in glory, strength, medal tallies or power, but by looking at giving, selflessness and acts of love.

Which is why I was so impressed by the Scottish Government's announcement that every school in Scotland will be sent a copy of the film 'Chariots of Fire'. This oscar-award winning movie charts the life of one of Scotland's greatest Olympians - Eric Liddell. He won gold in the 400m at the 1924 Games but is remembered because be refused to run his favoured event because it was on a Sunday. I must admit that I had trouble getting my head around that decision, but after reading more about his life, I realised that his decision about that race was based on a life-long commitment to a certain way of living - not through the routine following of religiosity but by living his faith in a way which still inspires us today.  Perhaps the greatest act of this courageous man was his final decision to give up his chance to leave an horrendous prisoner of war camp, instead giving up his place to a pregnant woman. 

C. S. Lewis once wrote: "People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, 'If you keep a lot of rules I'll reward you, and if you don't I'll do the other thing.' I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature."

The message of the Olympic Games is that the most important thing is not to win, but to take part with all your being. If we all play our part in the world like that, then we show each other what it means to be great.

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