Love Wins

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court made a landmark decision declaring that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry and be legally recognized by the state as a married couple.

I hesitate to write or blog about hot social topics because there’s so much already being said.  The internet is saturated with opinions, and usually I don’t feel that it’s necessary to add to the noise.  But, in the wake of this particular issue, I have yet to read any blog post, tweet, facebook status, or op-ed that has articulated what I think is the most important response.  So, I’m going to attempt to write it.

I’d like to talk about when love wins.

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Here’s the rub:  I believe in Jesus, the Christ, the Savior.  And so, in order to talk about love, I have to first talk about sin.

I know there will be many who read the last word of that last sentence and immediately hit their ‘back’ button.  And that’s okay.  But I had to get it out there in the open from the get-go, because that word is everywhere.  It’s in the facebook statuses, the tweets, the blog posts, and it is important.  It’s eternally important.  And, as a follower of Jesus, I do, indeed, believe that living a homosexual lifestyle (as opposed to having homosexual desires) is a sin.  But I’m afraid that I’ve seen too many Christians desperately waving the banner of condemnation while tragically leaving out the good news that Jesus charged us to tell.

I need you to know, dear Reader, that sin is only part of the story.

The gist of Christianity is this:  we believe that there is one true God and that He is holy.  One (of many!) major implications of God’s holiness is that He is the moral law.  His mandates for our morality are the rubric by which we judge any and all of our thoughts and actions.  One other relevant (for the purposes of this discussion) implication of God’s holiness is that He will allow only holy persons into eternal communion with him.  Those who are not holy (that is, anyone who does not obey his laws perfectly) are subject to eternal separation from God.

“But wait a minute,” you say!  “You are certainly not holy, Courtney.  There is no way you have upheld God’s laws perfectly.”

You are right.

“So how can you dare to believe you would spend eternity in communion with Him?  And how could you ever dare to talk to others about their sin?”

Because of Jesus.

Because I love them.  Because I love you.

And because Jesus loves you.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son [Jesus], that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16

That perfectly holy God who requires perfection?  He knew that we could not live up to his demands; but He loves us, and He wants us to be in communion with him.  So, he made a way.  He came to us as Jesus, our Deliverer, and He lived a perfect life in our place.  He offers us what we call propitiation for our sinfulness if we will admit it, turn away from it, and believe in him as our Savior from the wrath of God that we actually deserve.  And when we do that, we receive the reward that Jesus earned:  eternity with him.

Whew.  Take a breath.  That was a lot of information.

But I needed to tell you the whole story.  Because now I can tell you that I am a sinner in need of a Savior, just like you.  Just like Billy Graham.  Just like President Obama.  Just like Mother Teresa.  Now you’ll know what I’m talking about when I tell you that God is teaching me to hate sin (my sin included), not because I’m a crazy person who wants to be miserable and rain on everyone’s parade but because I have experienced the incredible, immeasurable love and grace of a Holy God, and I want to please him.  And I hope you can now see why it is troubling to me when Christians write about sin and leave out the rest of the story.  Because the rest of the story is Jesus.  The rest of the story is love.

Because of Jesus, love wins.

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

1 John 3:16

What I Want To Say To My Twenty-Five-Year-Old Self

A few years ago I was twenty-five.  I was happily married, a college graduate, and on my third year of inhabiting the corporate cubicle farm.

And I felt completely lost.

I had no interest in a career.  I had passions but no real desire or direction to pursue them.

My friends were doing incredibly interesting, productive things with their lives.  They were getting law degrees and moving to Chile.  They were having multiple children and recording music that was played on the radio.  They were becoming licensed therapists and sitting on boards of awesome non-profits (in addition to their high-powered full-time jobs).  As far as I could tell, they had every bit of the drive and purpose that I was obviously lacking.

I wanted to love my work.  But I didn’t.  I wanted the perfect humanitarian opportunity to come along.  But it didn’t.  I wanted to feel a sense of clear direction for my life–to wake up in the morning and know that I was where I needed to be.

But I didn’t.

So, I waited.  And time marched on.  Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, and months turned into years.  We decided to try to have a baby.  Then we had a baby, and we decided I would stay home with him.  And more days turned into more years.  That baby will be two this summer, and one month after his second birthday I will complete my twenty-ninth year of life.

And now I see.


And I wish I could whisper into my twenty-five-year-old ears and say,

“Hang in there.

“I know you feel like you’re behind in life.  I know you feel less than the career-minded wives.  I know many of your friends have dreamed dreams of motherhood since they were old enough to rock a baby doll, and I know that was not you.  And I know that all makes you feel like you are not fit or meant to be a good wife or mom, but listen to me:

That is a lie.

“You have a creator who formed you–all of you.  He knows and has always known your fears, your interests, your talents, your passions, your desires.  He has known for all of eternity that you would work hard in a job you loathed in order to support your husband through school.  He knew before the creation of time that you would feel the way you are feeling.  It’s okay.  You’re doing the right thing.  Be faithful.  Draw near to Him.  Enjoy your husband.  Live your life.  Because this, too, shall pass.  And, oh Courtney, so much joy is coming.

“Your marriage will continue to mature.  It will grow into something beautiful, and the more beautiful it becomes the more you look forward to the growth that still lies ahead.

“You will start to feel comfortable in your own skin.  Your insecurities will still be there, but their voices will no longer drown out that of the Lord’s saying you are beautiful, made in His image, covered in the cloak of Jesus’ righteousness.  You will finally begin to discover your gifts and you will desire to use them for the good of others and for the glory of God, and it will be the most wonderful feeling of purpose you’ve ever experienced.

“And you will become a mom to a little boy who has your eyes and his daddy’s smile (and feet).  He will have colic and fevers, and it will be hard.

But he will fill your heart with a love you’ve never known.

“He will be sharp as a tack.  He will laugh with ease, and his kisses will turn you to mush on the spot.  He will test your patience and make you a better person, and every time you wonder how you could ever be the mother that he needs, the mother he deserves, the Lord will gently take you by the hand and say softly, directly into your face, that He chose you.  He created you and He created your son, and He intended from the very beginning of the world for you to be the Mama of this little boy.

“When your two-year-old alarm clock sounds every morning and your feet hit the floor, they will feel guided, ordered by the God of the Universe.

When the flexibility of staying at home affords you the opportunity to serve your church or your community or your friends, to be faithful and willing in the mundane, it will feel bigger than the act itself, weightier with two small eyes watching and learning.

When you get hugs from chubby arms and hear ‘I luh yew, Mama,’ as you shut his bedroom door,

when you’re making lunches in the afternoon and you’re cleaning up sticky messes,

when you’re working hard to keep your cool as you discipline for persistent disobedience and when you’re bursting with joy and pride as you watch your baby learn a little more about himself and this world,

you will love what you do.

You’ll see.  Keep doing what you’re doing.

And, for heaven’s sake, sleep in.”


What would you say to your twenty-five-year-old self?

7 Things I Learned From My Mom

In anticipation of Mother’s Day I decided to compile a list of the most important things I’ve learned from my Momma over the years.

Some of these are lessons she taught me intentionally while others are things I gleaned from her character and actions.

All of them are priceless pearls of wisdom that I will be forever grateful to know.

1.  It’s okay to cry.

It’s a running joke that the women in my family are, shall we say, easily moved.  My favorite example being the Christmas that my grandma made chronological photo albums for each grandchild, full of pictures of ourselves with beloved friends and family members from birth to present day.  I was about halfway through mine, blubbering like a sea lion, when I looked up and saw my two sisters, my cousin, my mom, my aunt, and my grandma all in the same tear-stained state.

My mom and I often cry during our conversations.  Sometimes they are sad tears, other times happy tears, but they are always genuine tears.

Crying can be embarrassing, sometimes happening at extremely inopportune times and making my propensity for it a potential nuisance.  But, as I said in a previous post about this very trait, every time I cry a tear, it reminds me that I am alive and that I feel things and that there are things in this world worth feeling to the point of tears.

2.  Life’s not fair.  Get used to it.

Hi, my name is Courtney, and I have Middle Child Syndrome.

If my dear mother had a nickel for every time I screeched “but that’s not fair!” at a decibel level that only a middle child can reach and only dogs and moms can hear, she could afford to move to the beach and make hats every day.  (This, oddly, was a desire she often expressed after one of my outbursts.  I was not an easy child to rear.)

Since my mom has the wisdom of a sage and the patience of a saint, her response to my whine was always perfect…

(After my older sister beat me to the front seat of the minivan *again*)

Me:  “But that’s not fair!  She rode in the front YESTERDAY!”

My mom:  “Life’s not fair.  Get used to it.  And get in the back seat.  We’re going to be late.”

(When my older sister got a pair of [used] Doc Martens for Christmas, and I got a white sweatshirt with a smiley face on the front)

Me:  “That’s so not fair.  She gets everything she wants.”

My mom (wisely choosing not to engage in a discussion with me about how my sister does not, in reality, get everything she wants, and patiently refraining from pinching my head off):  “Life’s not fair.  Get used to it.”

You get the point.

I tell these stories in jest, but the fact remains that life is, actually, not fair.  Deserving people get overlooked for promotions; kind people often get the short end of the stick; older siblings totally cheat on the front seat rotation.  Life’s not fair.  And thanks to my mom, I know how to take it in stride.

3.  Don’t decide you don’t like something without first giving it a chance (barring drugs and immoral behavior, of course).  This applies to everything from food to friends.

A restatement of the old adage about judging a book by its cover.  An oldie but a goodie.

4.  When in doubt, take a jacket.

You don’t have to wear it.  But if you get cold, you’ll have it with you to put on.  Solid advice.

5.  This, too, shall pass.

Let the record show that my mom still says this to me.  It’s the ultimate encouragement when you’re in the middle of a situation that feels both world-shattering and never-ending.

However, it’s also an incredibly poignant existential philosophy.

This moment, this day, this experience, this life will pass.  Cherish it.  Live it.

(see mom?  that philosophy degree isn’t totally useless.)

6.  In most cases, less is more.

When I was thirteen, I had an obsession with black eyeliner.  My cosmetic-consultant-mom watched me walk out the door every day looking like a raccoon.  And she never said a word.

One day, several years later, we came across photo evidence of my unfortunate choice, and I asked her why she never stopped me from wearing it.  She said she knew that if she forced me to take it off, it would only teach me that she didn’t approve of my appearance and make me want to wear it more.  Instead, she wanted me to learn, in my own time, that less is more.

And you know what?  I did.

7. Pretty is as pretty does.

I like to feel pretty.  Unfortunately for me, I’ve never much felt pretty.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve bemoaned my boyish figure and the dark circles around my deep-set eyes.  Since I was old enough to notice, I’ve envied other girls their beautiful skin, their womanly curves, their perfect teeth.

As good, loving parents do, my mom often assured me of my physical beauty.  As a cosmetics consultant, she taught me the fundamentals of skin care and makeup application.  When I was younger, she complimented my appearance when she knew I needed the encouragement.

But, as excellent, God-fearing parents do, my mom just as often assures me of my true beauty.  She tells me she’s thankful to be my mom because I’m compassionate and caring.  She tells me she’s proud of me for loving and serving my husband and my little boy.  She rejoices with me when I tell her, through joyful tears, about what the Lord has been teaching me, and she tells me how happy it makes her to see me seeking Him.

She taught me to see others as she sees me, as God sees me.  To look first at their heart and regard not their outward appearance.  It is a skill that takes years to learn, and I’m still learning; but I see now how fortunate I am to have a mom who took the time to teach me.

————–

Thank you, Mom, for who are you and for who you taught me to be.  Thank you for the nights when you stayed up late to sew my Halloween costume and for the mornings when you rose early to make my breakfast.  Thank you for loving me unconditionally, for disciplining me, for encouraging me, for believing in me.

And thanks for making me take a jacket.

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What important lessons did your mom teach you?  What do you hope to teach your kids?  I’d love to hear all about it!

When It Rains on Easter

Dear Reader,

I wonder if you might be scrolling through your social media feeds today and wondering what in the world these people are smoking?

I wonder if you might be going through a divorce, or sitting next to a hospital bed where your wife lay dying, or nauseous from your last chemo treatment, and thinking, “What kind of fantasy are they living with their matching pastels and plastered smiles?”

Can I put my arm around your shoulder and quietly say that I get it?  I know how hard it can be to stare into a cropped, filtered, curated sea of apparent perfection when life is kicking your ass.

And can I cup your face in my hands and, with tears streaming down my cheeks, tell you that there is hope?  That although matching pastels are well and good, you and I both know life is lived in the trenches, in the mud, in the muck, and can I tell you that

Jesus will meet you there?

That all of the declarations of “He is risen!” on your newsfeed may feel overwhelming, but they are telling the truth–a truth more powerful than you may have ever dreamed?

That divorce and cancer and pain and death are all here because of sin.  And that Jesus died and then came back to life (what?!), defeating death and sin and cancer and pain and divorce so that, when we believe in Him, we have an assurance of living for eternity with Him–an eternity that is pain-free, cancer-free, divorce-free, death-free.  And that because we have that assurance, we can have hope today.  We can have joy in the trenches.  We can rejoice even in death.  Because, for the believer in Jesus Christ, dear Reader, death has lost its sting.

Jesus, God who became man, has declared victory over death, a victory that no man could win because of our sin.  But He will share that victory with you if you believe.

That’s it.

Just believe.

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.  Do you believe this?'”

John 11:25-26

I can’t promise that it will take away your cancer or heal your pain in this life but Oh, Dear Reader, I can promise that it will bring strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.

Dear friend, there is hope.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:1-5

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old selfwas crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 6:1-11

Generosity of Spirit

I will always love you, Coach Fox.

{I think I have to credit the movie The Family Stone with this phrase.  Sorry if that makes you cringe.}

I will always love you, Coach Fox.
I will always love you, Coach Fox.

{I wrote the post below on Monday night. It’s been on my heart for a while, this idea. I’ve had multiple conversations about it with multiple friends and my husband. I’ve found it commanded in scripture and necessary in real life scenarios. I’ve thought about possible ways to integrate this phrase and philosophy into our home in such a way that it becomes a focal point in our parenting strategy. And so I was finally convinced that it was time to dust off the ol’ bloglet and just write about it for goodness’ sake.

So, on Monday night, while my son was eating dinner, I jotted it down at near stream-of-consciousness speed (because doing anything slowly and deliberately during toddler wake-time hours is not a thing that happens. Which explains why I am writing this on my Notes app, in my grandparents’ guest bedroom, with my screen brightness turned all the way down while my son is asleep next to me in his pack n play). I finished the post, but it still felt like some key component was missing. Like I still wasn’t getting across exactly what I wanted to. So I saved the draft and promptly forgot about it.

The next day, my son and I traveled to visit my grandparents. I checked my email one last time before bed, and lazily opened a new message. I was halfway through the third sentence when I realized that I was reading an email from Jen Hatmaker telling me that I had been chosen to participate in the launch team for her new book, For The Love that releases in August.

Um, what?

A few days prior I had filled out an application for said team. The application form was short and simple, so I filled it out quickly (see above info re: toddler time-frames) and with exactly no nervousness since I was 100% sure I would never be selected.

Long story even longer, it’s now Wednesday night; I just finished the introduction to For The Love, and I now see why my original post was not translating like I wanted it to:

It’s because I forgot to say that it’s all because of love.

What I’m calling generosity of spirit is not a masochistic ritual to be endured. It is a joy. It is a privilege. It is a gift given to us from Jesus himself. It is a Biblical denial of self For The Love of God and his people.
So, there will be other posts about Jen’s book in the near future (I’m still beside myself that this is happening), but for now, here is my original post…with a bit more emphasis on the love.}

Recently a good friend of mine had her third child.  Her kids’ ages are now 4, 2, and newborn.  So, about 10 days after his birthday (I make it a point not to visit a mom of a newborn in the first week of the baby’s life unless I am explicitly invited, but that’s another story for another day), I had an opportunity to visit my friend sans my toddler (I also make it a point not to bring my rambunctious child when I visit a mom of a newborn).  I made a pit stop at Target on the way and got various healthy/tasty/filling snacks and some nursing pads for my friend as well as some goodies for her two older kiddos.  All in all, it cost me a few bucks and half in hour in the store.

As I drove away from her house after our visit, I felt full to the brim.  Technically, the gesture did cost me something.  If we’re going to look at the ledger, I should be partially depleted. But what I have learned, and what I want my son to learn, and what the Bible teaches, is that giving generously does not deplete, it fills up.  Where physical, temporal resources decrease, eternal joy and glory increase.  I did not feel poorer.  I did not feel tired from the shopping trip.  I did not feel anxious about the monetary expense.  I felt appreciation for the resources God has given me.  I felt thankful for friendships with sweet women.  I felt love for my dear friend and her babies.

And here’s the real kicker: this also applies to the immaterial.

Generosity of spirit.

Giving generously when it comes to your time, your emotions, or your words can be costly.  It can cost you your pride, your comfort, your entitlement, your self-indulgence.  But, when given from a true sense of generosity flowing from appreciation and understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it will always give more than it takes.  It will give life to dying relationships.  It will give joy of an eternal nature to ceaseless striving.  It will fill your heart with love for God’s children as it eradicates annoyance, anger, and indifference.

You may be thinking, “That sounds great, but how am I supposed to live this way?  That sounds difficult.”  It is.  But there’s a helpful secret.  This secret is the key to finding joy, happiness, freedom, love, you name it.  It’s four words.  Get ready.  It will change your life.

It’s not about you.

“What isn’t?” you say.

Everything.  Nothing.

Everything is not about you.  Nothing is about you.

Marriage.  Parenting.  Relationships.  Church.  Life.

It’s not about you.

It’s about Christ.

“But wait,” you may say, “I have to take care of myself in order to be the best [wife] [parent] [friend] [church member] [person] I can be.”  You’re right.  What I’m saying, though, is that you “take care of yourself” so that you can be the best [all of the above].  And the point of you being the best [all of the above] is so that you can love and serve the other people in each of those equations for the glory of God alone.

“This is why we live and breathe: for the love of Jesus, for the love of our own souls, for the love of our families and people, for the love of our neighbors and this world. This is all that will last.”

Jen Hatmaker, For The Love

I know that’s the point because that’s what the Bible says.  Because the Bible says that loving and serving others means we love and serve God.  And that’s the point.  That’s what “it” is about.  This life is not our own.  This life is not my own.  I have been bought for a price by the blood of Jesus.  I am a child of God.  Called to a higher purpose.

And for me, a selfish, self-absorbed, ego-centric, anxiety-ridden, approval-seeking, sinner, that fact is my freedom.

The gospel of Jesus is ripe with gorgeous paradox:  giving up your life for Jesus’ sake will bring eternal life (Matthew 16:25); the Lord will exalt the humble and will humble those who exalt themselves (Matthew 23:12); the last will be first and the first will be last (Matthew 20:16).

Give of yourself–give generously–pour yourself out, for heaven’s sake love on each other.  Seek Christ and his Kingdom.  Seek the Lord and his glory.  And as you are emptied you be filled with a joy eternal.  Amen and amen.

Wedding Rings

I hope he will remember playing with them: eyes wide, body still as he runs his finger over them. They clink as they move. They don’t quite fit together because they aren’t technically a set–the engagement ring Coleman picked out and purchased on his own, the wedding band we bought together a few months later.  Both white gold.  Both simple:  the solitaire diamond the only adornment.

They tell stories.

They speak of an evolution.  Two teenagers in love and unable, perhaps, to fully grasp the weight of it all.  A relationship that (as most do) ebbed and flowed, and dipped and peaked, culminating in a beautiful marriage that, though young, has already begun to be forged in the fires.

They shine in a wedding day memory darkened by tragic loss.IMG_2989

They whisper, if you listen closely, of a ceremony spent in a box while a stranger’s ring was exchanged on the altar.  Lost and found in time to go on the honeymoon.

He’ll hear those stories some day.  We’ll tell them to him with teary eyes and an appropriate amount of wistfulness.  Today, I just watch him as he watches them.

May he always remember me with those rings on my finger. May he see them as a reflection of his dad and me: imperfect, the diamond slightly flawed, the gold different hues.  Together, though, a pair–symbolic of the eternal covenant forged between us the day his dad slipped that band onto my finger, our marriage itself a physical reflection of the church and her Bridegroom.

May he always feel the security of the love and commitment that those rings represent.

May he always know the security of the love of the Father in Jesus Christ.

Yevgeny Plushenko Made Me Cry

Yeah, the Russian male figure skater.

He’s a 31 year old European Champion, World Champion, and four-time Olympic medalist–which means he’s been the Olympic favorite for almost half of my life.  I’ve been watching him skate on Olympic ice in my TV since I was sixteen years old.  And I couldn’t stand him.  Something about his *ahem* interesting haircut, or his smug smile, or his confident air, something just never sat right with me.

This year in particular he seemed to really get under my skin.  The golden boy has come home to Sochi to win it for Mother Russia!  They might as well have just saved everyone the trouble and given him the medal without making anyone skate.  After all, he clinched the gold for Russia in the team competition, earning a hug from Putin himself.

So, in my annoyance, I said some ugly things about him.  Things that, I’m ashamed to say, I can’t bring myself to repeat here.  Sarcastic texts to friends, snarky comments in casual conversations.  Why?  I don’t know.  I don’t even care that much about skating.  It’s not like I’m a superfan.  I couldn’t even have told you the names of the men skating for Team USA before last week.  And I didn’t tweet, or otherwise publicly share, my mean thoughts and comments with the public.  I wasn’t out for blood or defamation or anything.  It was just your everyday, “I don’t like him” ugliness.

Then I settled into my couch a week ago to watch the men’s figure skating competition.  They were showing the warm-ups, Yevgeny’s familiar blonde bangs flying in the breeze as he skated around the rink and…almost fell?  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I watched in disbelief as he skated over to the judges’ table to inform them that he would not be competing.  He had hurt his back and could not execute his jumps.

This will be his final Olympic appearance (he announced his official retirement shortly thereafter).  And it’s on his home turf, no less.  But for the first time in the twelve years that he’s been skating on my TV screen, he walked off the Olympic ice with no chance of a medal.  Instead of ending a long and dominant career with a final solo performance in front of a loving home crowd, he exits the arena having withdrawn from competition, head down, face wincing in pain of both body and heart.

Even as he angrily jerked away from the consoling touch of his coach and rudely ignored the word and gaze of the reporters desperate for a comment, my heart hurt a little for him.

A few minutes later, they showed the interview that he did finally grant that reporter.

He was calm and gracious and as eloquent as he could be speaking in a non-native language.  He talked about the physical pain he was in and how it was not possible for him to compete.  He seemed heartbroken, of course, saying that he almost cried while walking off the ice.  He said he felt sad for his fans.  He said over and over that “he tried…to the end.”  Then, in broken English he said, “I am not robot.  I am person.  Like you.”

And I burst into tears.

Suddenly I was so ashamed of the ugly things I had said about him, about this person.  This person I don’t even know.

I read a few articles that blasted him for not withdrawing sooner so that a fellow countryman could take his place.  Maybe they’re right.  I’ve also heard that he’s not “ruling out” the 2018 Olympics–perhaps another hint at arrogance.  The thing is, maybe in all reality Mr. Plushenko is not a very nice guy.  Maybe he actually is as rude and conceited as I once so boldly asserted.  I’ll never know, I suppose.  But it doesn’t matter.

After watching more than a decade of award-winning performances and remaining unaffected, the performance that finally got to me was the one that never was.  After years of watching him receive his medals, triumphant, I only ever admired him when gracious in heartache.

So, much to my surprise, Yevgeny made me cry.  And he reminded me of a few valuable life lessons:

Humility in defeat and graciousness in disappointment are much more powerful than pride in triumph.

Sometimes our judgments of people are wrong.  Sometimes they’re right.  But they always say more about ourselves than about the judged.

And, finally, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.