It’s not the load that breaks you, it’s how you carry it. C.S. Lewis
There is an easy grace that comes from carrying your burdens lightly. As I once heard someone say, “Suffering is required but misery is optional.”
When Olympian Meb Keflezighi finished a somewhat disappointing marathon this past August, he was acknowledging the crowd’s ovation when he slipped on the wet surface and fell. There are many ways he could have handled that, and perhaps on the inside he was a little embarrassed in addition to his fatigue. But he ripped off a few push-ups before standing up with a grin and wave. He had suffered but was nowhere near miserable.
Another time, in 2015, Meb was finishing up his run at the Boston Marathon. He had won the year before and was no doubt not happy he had finished out of contention. But he still made the finish memorable for 15th place women’s finisher Hilary Dionne, grabbing her hand as they crossed. (Because the women start 30 minutes before the men, she finished at the same time as 8th place men’s finisher, Meb.)
Dionne later tweeted, “Not my best time, but by far my most memorable finish. Thanks amazing @runmeb for joining me across the line, an unforgettable moment!”
I’ve also admired people who handle mistakes with grace. I can remember once when our priest took a tumble down the steps of the alter when preparing for a communion service. Somehow he handled it in a way that made everyone feel at ease about it.
Another time, when I was young and on an important job interview, I was going to meet with a department director. When she sat down, her chair flew backwards and she tumbled backward, heels over head. She got up and said, “Now you don’t have to feel nervous!”
The secret to this approach, I think, is to dispense grace freely. Life is much easier if you approach mistakes, others’ and your own, as opportunities to learn.
Similarly, it helps to stay humble. As Bob Goff says, “God makes confetti out of our titles and accomplishments to celebrate the poor and the humble.”
I have a friend whose sister was driving once and someone cut her off in traffic. The sister, instead of getting upset, just said something like “Oh my.” It stuck with my friend, and it stuck with me also. I’m quite sure that example would not be remembered here, 40 years later, if she had reacted in typical angry fashion.
When you put down the weight of being perfect, life gets easier. When you unload the need to be right, you can step lightly. And when accept an apology that is never issued, you travel light and free indeed.