Mental Toughness, the Masters and the Spiritual Life

I absolutely adore the changing of seasons, particularly as winter gives way to spring. The grass begins to green up, trees blossom and here in the South, azaleas bloom.

If you are a golfer, or a fan of golf, blooming azaleas are a sign of another beautiful occurrence that happens every spring–the Masters.

For those of you who may not be familiar, the Masters is the premiere professional golf tournament in the world played at one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world, Augusta National, in Augusta, Georgia.

Augusta was designed and built by Bobby Jones, the first and only man to ever win the Grand Slam of golf.

Back in 1930, Bobby accomplished this feat by winning the four top amateur and professional tournaments in the world at that time–the US Open, the British Open, the US Amateur and the British Amateur–all in the same year.

The physical toll was enormous with the amount of travel to get to the competitions, and the tournaments themselves, plus as Bobby got closer and closer to achieving the feat, the public expectations skyrocketed and the emotional pressure became enormous.

But this was nothing compared to the mental strain that Bobby experienced throughout this endeavor, and this mental burden was only heightened due to the mental nature of the sport of golf.

Golf is a physical sport – there can be as much as seven miles of walking involved in the playing of 18 holes, plus the highly tuned action of swinging a variety of clubs. Yet the reality is that the sport of golf is far more mental than physical, and what Bobby Jones did in winning the Grand Slam has not been done in the sport of golf since.

Now because this feat has never been repeated, most people assume that Bobby must have been the most talented golfer ever. But while Bobby was talented, he wasn’t necessarily the most talented.

However, what he did possess was mental toughness.

In the article entitled, The Art of Developing Mental Toughness in Your Health, Work and Life, James Clear writes:

“Research is starting to reveal that your mental toughness — or “grit” as they call it — plays a more important role than anything else for achieving your goals in health, business, and life.

Why is mental toughness so important? Simply, because it has been determined to be the difference maker between successfully achieving one’s goals–or not.

And just like Bobby Jones displayed a level of mental toughness that has only been seen once in the history of golf, so are we called to display a similar level of mental toughness, or perseverance, in the spiritual journey as we strive for holiness. As we strive to become saints.

Since there is nothing more important than succeeding in the spiritual life, the next logical question would be, how can I develop more of it?

In James’ article, he narrows down what mental toughness and perseverance looks like in real life into one word– consistency.

So consistency in the spiritual life is when you do things like:

  • Show up and prayer even when you don’t feel like it
  • Commit to doing spiritual reading every day for 10 minutes
  • Despite a busy day, still go to your Adoration Holy Hour
  • Try to grow in virtue by pursuing a daily resolution
  • Go to confession regularly
  • You do the right thing even when no one is watching or will know about it
  • You keep trusting God and His plan even when things get difficult

There are other habits that we can cultivate that will help us win the spiritual race, but what is most important is not how fast you go, or how high you get, or how far along you move, but that you persevere on the journey.

That no matter what, you never give up.

Remember that as we get ready to begin the holiest of weeks this Sunday.

Because Jesus never quit. He persevered through everything. His entire Passion–the arrest, the beatings, the scourging, the crown of thorns, the carrying of the Cross, the crucifixion, and ultimately, His death–He persevered.

And because He did, sin and death are no more, and we have the prospect of spending eternal life with Him in Heaven.

So keep your eyes on the prize, and consistently develop the habits of mental toughness you need to persevere and become the saint that God created you to be!

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