Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing. Abraham Lincoln
March- "In like a Lion, and out like a Lamb".
March- the time of year you begin to see "Girl Scouts" selling cookies in front of the grocery store.
March- spring training for baseball players in Arizona and Florida where anxious fans come to see their favorite players as well as get a glimpse of rookies coming up the ranks. However, when I was putting together things of March, the first thing that came to mind was "March Madness". About the only thing I knew about March Madness was "something about basketball….-college basketball." Wow- a google search and you get a lot of sites, tournament schedules, and pictures of girls in "Hooter t-shirts". So what does all of this have to do with character? When I asked my husband if he knew of one great basketball athlete I could highlight in March, his immediate response was "sure - I have an athlete for you - but he was better known as Coach."
John Wooden is most notably famous for coaching UCLA College basketball. His victories are impressive but it is his character that shines the brightest. It was easy to start reading and researching for this post. His quotes and "Creed for living" provided a treasure-trove of "TimbreNotes" worthy material.
John Wooden was born October 14, 1910 and lived just shy of his 100th birthday. In his lifetime, he is recognized as one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time. He brought the UCLA Bruins to 10 National Championships in 12 years (7 consecutively).
Wooden was born in Hall, Indiana. He had three brothers and two sisters (both of whom died under age 2). His heroes were "the Franklin Wonder Five" a 1920's "Cinderella" story basketball team that had an impressive run of wins: 104/10 losses in high school and 50 consecutive wins in college. Wooden, himself, led his high school team to 3 State Championship Finals. While at Purdue University, he was the only player ever to be named three-time consensus All American player. Note Worthy: 1) In 1947, Wooden refused the invitation for his team to compete in a tournament, citing the league's ban on African American players from playing; their attendance would mean benching at least one of his players. 2) When asked to become Assistant Coach for Purdue, he declined the invitation because it would have made the head coach and his friend, Mel Taube a lame-duck coach.
Let's pause there.
A talking tree: A tree serves as neutral ground for conversation. Children gather there to sort out their difference of opinions. If that doesn't work, kids are encouraged to "write" their version of the story. I see some kids start with little lies that escalate. Easier to take responsibility, it is the ones who learn these principles early that have an easier road in life.
What is your foundation? Who were the the heroes and examples in your life?
Back to John Wooden. Do you think the decision for his team not to play in the tournament was an easy one to make? It certainly had to be against the backdrop of standing firm in what he believed (I should remind you this was in the 1950's when segregation was commonplace).
Aside from taking responsibility, my guess is that Wooden was not afraid of hard work. I have a grown son; he began playing sports even before he was in Kindergarten. He competed in baseball, soccer and volleyball. His "Club" participation meant sacrifices on all our parts; Three nights a week we would drive an hour each way to practice and back, on top of regular high school athletic practices and games (and homework!) The weekends were almost always full days of "out of town" athletics. Often we'd drive 3 hours one-way for a daylong, or weekend long tournament. His Senior year of volleyball culminated in the "Junior Olympics" for Men's High School Volleyball (bringing together kids from all over the United States, Canada, and Central America) which was held in Atlanta, GA (we are on the west coast). These experiences gave me a greater appreciation for people like John Wooden; handling defeats, victories and inspiring players takes a depth of the understanding of the game as well as a compassion for his players. Look at some of the inspirational words Wooden has left us:
Seven Point Creed: given to Wooden by his father at grammar school graduation
Pyramid of Success. See for yourself.
I have always been a nice person. Sometimes when I was really young, I was labeled "too nice". This is a theme I will probably talk about a lot throughout this website. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being nice. There is nothing wrong with building our reputation on a good moral compass of right and wrong. But recently I got the impression that somebody thought they knew me well; I questioned whether this person really understood the source of my strength.
John Wooden's strength of character is solid but there can be no denying that his strength comes from the Lord. He said it on and off the court. We live in a culture where everybody wins; everyone gets a medal- just for playing the game. This is the tricky part.
Rev 3:20 says, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me". Jesus invites you into a relationship with himself.
The strength of a character built on a good moral compass is achieved through hard work, sacrifice, talents, knowledge and positive traits; but a faith built on the Lord Jesus is built on humility and grace. It is an understanding that despite all our hard work and natural gifts (and we might be really, really good), we still fall short. At some point, we will make a mistake in deed or thought, or our once glowing athleticism and beauty will fade as somebody shinier comes along.
It is a subtle shift but in it lies the "red letters". The red letters are the words of Jesus. The good news is that He stands there for anyone and everyone with arms wide open (really wide) and welcomes you into the embrace of grace and eternity... but the hardest road is deciding that you need him. Because in deciding you need Him, you give up your power of knowing it all, or being it all, or having it all. In a culture where everybody wins, that is a hard game in which to throw in the towel. Throwing in the towel means you submit to a coach and let's face it, It is a lot easier to be the star player.
Will you build your strength on a good solid character? Or will you build it on a humble understanding of yourself and the words of a good coach? That coach's name is Jesus.
A person who searches for depth and beauty in the simple things.