Serena Williams & faithfulness: Why it isn’t always what we think it is.

Serena Williams

You may have heard that Serena Williams recently won the Australian Open…while pregnant.


I can’t even stay on the court long enough to make it through one point…and I’m not pregnant.

Recently I listened to a TED talk podcast where Serena was interviewed about being a mom and on her recent win in Australia.

Serena is obviously super talented. But she’ll tell you (at least she said it in the interview) that her success isn’t due to the fact that she’s gifted…it’s the time and effort that she has put into her craft over years and years.

If you’re like me, when you think of being faithful you probably think of fidelity within a relationship, or being faithful to certain religious beliefs. These are certainly important contexts for faithfulness, but I think it can be extended outside of just those two instances.

I think a lot of us struggle today with being pulled in several different directions. From a young age we’re encouraged to be ‘well-rounded’ and as we get older we work hard to balance a career, a social life, our health, our family and any other activities or groups we’re a part of. I know it’s not uncommon for me to feel overwhelmed trying to balance various commitments.

While I think it is good to be apt at more than one thing, I think there’s something to be said about doing a few things well – as opposed to several things half-way. I know I tend to be more of the type of person who likes to do a lot; but I also have come to appreciate the idea of doing my best at fewer things and not trying to do everything and falling short.

Being faithful is showing up – but not just being physically present, also emotionally and intellectually. In other words, being present to your commitments wholeheartedly. I think this has especially become difficult because of our phones. I know it’s hard for me to focus on anything without being distracted by a text or other alert every few minutes.

The benefit of faithfulness is it allows you to value what is important to you. When we choose family dinner over a night out or homework over Netflix, we are faithful to what is more essential to us. Obviously going out and watching Netflix aren’t bad things, but we can’t do it all…all the time. In practicing faithfulness we demonstrate where our priorities lie, which largely determine the person we are.

If you value health and fitness you probably are faithful to your weekly workouts; if you you value good grades you are most likely faithful to your study time…our lives are largely determined by our choices, which show you and others what is really important to you.

We can’t be 100% faithful to a million different things…that’s why it matters. If you could be everywhere and do everything then you wouldn’t have the opportunity to demonstrate that something is important to you. It is because of our scarcity that our time is so valuable.

Serena obviously learned this lesson pretty early on. She says that she wants “to be the best” and I know she didn’t do that without much sacrifice. The world knows tennis is important to Serena because of the fruit of her hard work (namely winning pretty much everything tennis related). Similarly, our lives reflect what we value…what we are faithful to.

That’s not to say that we can’t value more than one thing; we can have several priorities like our family, our friends, our work…but these priorities are only reflected to the extent that we show up to and are fully present to them.

Serena also has a strong appreciation of family. She repeatedly talks about how close she is to her sisters and how excited she is to be a mom (instead of seeing it as a burden or threat to her career). Her family of origin and now her new family are clearly things she very much values as well and I’m sure her time also reflects that…if not so publicly as with her tennis.

The point is, we don’t have to do everything. Inevitably there will be a party we can’t go to, a skill we won’t have, a book we don’t finish, an outing we can’t make…but as long as we know what we really care about and are faithful to those things, we can live at peace knowing our lives reflect where are hearts truly lie.

So if you drop everything else and win a tennis championship after this, feel free to give me a shout out during your TED talk interview. 😉



*Image via The Odyssey Online

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