The Imperfect Grace of Olympic Gymnasts

Joshua Coldagelli

Joshua Coldagelli
August 11, 2016

The grace we witness in an Olympic gymnastics event goes much deeper than finesse-filled athleticism.

August 12, 2016

Love this reflection, Joshua. Thanks for sharing it.

I've been thinking a lot about the confusion we introduce in our popular use of the word "grace" to describe things like this. I think we intuitively "get" what the announcers and commentators mean when they describe a graceful athletic performance, but I've also been hearing a lot about how people are applying the word to the way Hillary Clinton conducts herself as a presidential candidate, and it occurs to me that it probably now means different things to different people.

So I've been reflecting a lot in recent weeks on what it means to do something "with grace." I think it's more than just a fine performance. I think of how people generally seem to mean that it was something obviously difficult, performed with a level of confidence and discipline that betrays more than just skill--that reveals a certain untaught (and unteachable) inclination within the person that enables them to execute the kind of performance in the first place.

It's like what we mean when we talk about raw talent. You can have a lot of raw talent, but without the disciplined cultivation of that talent, your finest performances will never happen. Likewise, you can have tremendous discipline, but if you lack much raw talent, the performances are likely to be technically impressive but nevertheless be missing a "certain something" that we call grace.

Maybe there's a theological connection there, too. Maybe what announcers are recognizing is akin to what animates Christian discipleship: behind all the technical mastery that comes from hours and hours of rigorous practice is that unmerited gift of talent that shines through so much more brightly for having been cultivated through discipline. Such a gift isn't deserved...but the best way to honor it is to gratefully refine and share it with others.

Jordan G.
August 18, 2016

Great work Josh. Your argument against complacency is both compelling and convicting. Its a great reminder with this school year about to kick off.

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