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When quitting is admirable and brave

John Wesley Reid
Courtesy of John Wesley Reid

The fact that a host of conservative pundits have been coming out aggressively against Simone Biles says more about their tribalistic ways than their genuine conservative views.

I’m a conservative, and a staunch one at that. But conservatism, true conservatism, values fairness and kindness in delivery. Some things simply don’t need to be politicized, polarized, or really even spoken.

But for the attention-seekers of the world, they simply must have a voice — and an authoritarian one at that, even if they’re the least qualified to speak on the matter. Kindness is not akin to softness or being a “squish.” It simply means that facts can stand alone and don’t need validation from tantrum-esque emotional appeals. So as a true-blue conservative, allow me to push against the grains of many (certainly not all) of my colleagues who, for some odd reason, have decided to display an asinine character and misrepresent what conservatism is about. 

I once found myself in a job where I was miserable. I worked well with my colleagues, the company was great, and I was completely on board with their mission — which is important to me. So why was I miserable? Because I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do with my career.

But I didn’t want to quit, since I didn’t want to think of myself as a quitter. I didn’t want to quit because I wanted it to get better. I wanted to push through. I wanted to give it another chance. And yet, I found myself waking up angry, thinking, “Well, today I don’t get to do what I want to do” and then going home angry. It became unhealthy.

Then one day it clicked: Not quitting is quitting. If I stayed in the name of “not quitting,” I would, in fact, be quitting. I would be quitting on the bigger goals of my career. By not quitting, I would be prioritizing my pride over my future, over my family, over my career. So I quit that job and quitting allowed me to pursue a greater need.

In my case, that greater need was career-centered.

In Simone Biles’ case, quitting allowed her to pursue a greater need: Her mental health. And for that, I applaud her.

Simone’s decision to quit is admirable

Her decision to quit is admirable because it shows other people that health should be prioritized over pride. In fact, she should be proud that her pride didn’t hinder her. Fascinating isn’t it? What is a gold medal if it costs you your health? And what is to say her health wasn’t going to prevent her from achieving the gold had she stayed? 

Simone had two options:

1. Stay in the Olympics and quit tending to her mental health.
2. Quit the Olympics and tend to her mental health.

Quitting was inevitable in either option; which option she took was up to her and I’m glad she prioritized her health over her pride. 

Simone’s decision to quit was brave

Her decision was brave because she undoubtedly knew the ridicule, shame and adverse ramifications that would come from pulling out. This would create fear for anyone on any scale but the fear compounds when you’re of global prominence. Nevertheless, this fear didn’t deter her from making the decision that she felt was best. 

Sometimes quitting is harder than staying

Necessity doesn’t make it easy. Necessary quitting still means we miss out on a goal we reached for. To train as vigorously as she did for as long as she has, and then to make the decision to leave near the final moment is not a flippant decision.

For those of you calling her a quitter, please remind yourself that in order to get even half as far as she has in life and international competition, you cannot be a quitter.

So before you give her grief for this one circumstance where she quit to tend to her health, remind yourself of

… The number of times she didn’t quit.

…  The number of times she didn’t allow pain to be the victor.

… The number of times she sacrificed social events to train.

… The number of times she didn’t allow physical injuries to set her back beyond what was necessary to heal.

… The number of times she said no to distractions that could have deterred her from success.

… The number of times she wrestled with how people think of her, yet she persisted.

… The amount of emotional and mental stress that she endured, yet she persisted.

Remind yourself of the above list, and then remind yourself that she persisted through that list after

… Experiencing a broken family in her early years.

… Being diagnosed with ADHD and still excelling in academics and training.

… Bravely coming forward during the Nassar sex abuse scandal.

… Choosing life over suicide.

Responding to the critics

Here are a few slurs that have been ignorantly thrown her way. These are bad. Reminiscent of a 5-year-old throwing a tantrum at K-Mart. 

'You selfish sociopath'

Selfish? Why? Because she prioritized her health over her pride? She’s an Olympian, not a diplomat. Her performance doesn’t strengthen or compromise national security or make America look bad. I’m glad she represented America and I think she represented American well — even when pulling out of her position because she showed that pride is no match for personal health and she wasn’t willing to wreck her mental health on the altar of a medal.

Now Russia gets the gold and not the US'

Speaking of selfish, who said you had to be OK with someone choosing mental healing over a gold medal? It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. It is selfish to throw stones at someone for taking care of themselves. Also, while I believe the Kremlin is as shady as it gets, that’s the Russian government, not to be confused with a few 20-something-year-old Russian citizens who are in no way involved in international operations.  

'Simone Biles is weak'

You don’t become the most dominant gymnast in the entire world and stay on top for more than a decade by being physically, mentally or emotionally weak.

'If you have mental health problems — don’t show up'

This is stupid. This statement literally suggests that the millions of youth with mental health issues shouldn’t pursue athletic greatness. It should also be noted that it oftentimes takes significant challenges to test the limits of our mental strength, and given the challenges she’s faced in life, she made it pretty darn far to find her limits. Good for her.  

'She is a shame to the country'

For what it’s worth coming from a U.S. Marine, Simone is not a shame to the country. She’s among the most decorated U.S. Olympians of all time. She’s represented the country well and deserves no talk of “shame” simply because she chose to take care of herself.

'What kind of person skips the gold medal match?'

I agree that skipping out on the gold medal is a pretty big deal. What seems to be missing is that there’s obviously something big going on that would cause her to “skip out” on the gold. She’s got plenty of golds, so why would she just skip out on another unless there wasn’t a tremendous issue at hand? Give her the benefit of the doubt, or just stay neutral. But to jump to a baseless conclusion that she’s just being selfish about it or being a sociopath … baseless.

'Don’t show up. If you’re not ready for the big time, we got thousands of young female gymnasts that would love to take the place.'

How about we not tell an Olympic gold-medalist that she wasn’t ready for the big time. Also, you’re making it out as if thousands of girls are waiting in line for her spot. Uh, no, there aren’t thousands of girls who can take her spot. That’s what makes her success so awesome. Very few athletes over many years will ever perform at the same level as Simone Biles.

'Simone Biles just told the rest of the nation that when things get tough, you shatter into a million pieces.'

This is just nonsensical. Simone displayed year after year what it means to persist. Through family issues, assault, vigorous training, emotional and mental burdens, and all the many unknowns that should remain personal to Simone, she persisted.

In conclusion, what Simone just told the nation is that your health comes before your pride.

None of her critics have completed near what she’s accomplished and done so without quitting. You don’t get close to where she’s at as a quitter. She’s literally the pinnacle example of not quitting. The only people who “can” chastise her for quitting are her fellow Olympians who’ve accomplished the same as she, and I guarantee you they won’t. They know what she’s been through and would applaud her for her bravery in stepping aside to tend to herself where needed.


Originally published at the Freedom Center

John Wesley Reid is the editor-in-chief at the Standing for Freedom Center. Follow him on Twitter at @johnwesleyreid.

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