Finding Humility Through Exercise

 

A simple, seven-word declarative sentence is a call to a different kind of action for St. Joseph’s strength and conditioning coach Joel Raines.

 

“God needs our poverty not our abundance.”

 

That is the basis for the Mother Teresa Humility Challenge that Raines has set forth this school year for middle school boys participating in strength and conditioning under his supervision. The challenge is “based on a homily given by Father Patrick Winslow of the Archdiocese of Charlotte,” Raines said. Father Winslow based the homily on “Heart of Joy,” a collection of quotes and writings of the Blessed Mother Teresa. In it, Mother Teresa gives practical ways to the sisters of her community, the Missionaries of Charity, to grow in humility.

 

But why humility and why now? “St. Thomas Aquinas describes humility as the ‘first’ and ‘universal’ virtue,” Raines said. It removes obstacles to grow in other virtues and universal because it is connected to all the other virtues.

 

This also supplements Headmaster Keith Kiser’s theme for the school year of striving for true happiness in life, not through acquisition of possessions or personal wealth, but learning to “enjoy the things that truly make life rich: good friendship, learning, the arts, service to others and prayer.”

 

Humility is a key component to true happiness.

 

Raines has had cards printed with the saying (they can be found on the front of lockers around the middle school), but it’s more practical than that. There are 11 “challenges” to choose from. They are:

 

  • Speak as little as possible about yourself
  • Take care of your personal matters
  • Avoid (negative) curiosity
  • Mind your own business
  • Do not focus on others’ faults
  • Accept insults
  • Be kind even if someone provokes you
  • Do not try to be admired
  • Yield in arguments even if you are right
  • Accept criticism with good humor
  • Always choose what is most difficult

 

Raines has told the boys that strength and conditioning “would always be as much a spiritual battle as it is a physical battle and the axiom ‘grace builds on nature’ would be our guide,” he said.

 

“Growth in humility leads to growth in all the virtues.”

 

For Raines, the toughest challenge on the list is the last one: choosing what is difficult. “We are just prone to choose what is easier and causes less personal hardship.”

 

Another difficult challenge is the “Do not try to be admired,” according to Raines. “The world, especially the professional sports world, tells them that admiration, glory and fame are the end goal of any pursuit. Standing out and peer acceptance is what the world tells them they need to do.

 

“The challenge is built around the exact opposite.”

 

And the results so far are encouraging, according to Raines. “They become better teammates, harder workers and keep mentally strong when things get hard.”

 

And Coach Raines hastens to add: “I have seen an improvement in discipline, attendance and attentiveness to instruction.”

 

As it says in Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

 

The athletes at St. Joseph’s are learning to accept that challenge with humility.