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  • Reverend James Squire

Aaron Rodgers

If you follow the world of sports particularly professional football, you know that Aaron Rodgers, an MVP quarterback, who was going to be the salvation for the New York Jets, ruptured his Achilles Tendon four plays into the season. Any time that happens to an athlete, my heart goes out to them. I knew immediately that I would hear the verdict of out for the season and possibly career ending. I knew that because I tore mine. Rodgers has had surgery and indicates that he will be back next year.

I was running up a steep grade on the back part of the EA Campus when I tore mine, but I didn’t stop. When I met the next week with a Rothman ankle orthopedic surgeon, he said that I was lucky to just tear it after continuing the run as that could have resulted in a rupture which would have required surgery.

So, why is this such a devastating injury? Think about where it is located on the back of your ankle. It is the longest tendon in the body. It is also the place that gets the least blood supply. The “cure” is rehabilitation plus attaching nitroglycerine patches to the area to draw blood for healing to that most distant place from the heart. I felt like a domestic terrorist. Nitro is used to blow up things as well.

The Achilles Tendon is named after Achilles in Greek mythology. His body was covered with armor but he was killed by Trojan Prince Paris with an arrow shot into the back of his ankle.

The phrase, “that is his Achilles Heel”, entered the culture to describe someone’s weakness or vulnerability. There are at least three people that I follow who have addressed how to handle weakness, failure, and our own limitations and vulnerability in reaching the goal of personal wholeness and happiness.

Brene Brown has written extensively on the topic as a way to achieve wholeness by accepting our vulnerability. She encourages people to not worry about what other people think because they are probably working on their own issues of vulnerability as well. She makes clear that we shouldn’t strive for perfection meaning to hold ourselves to an impossible standard that no one meets which, in turn, causes us to have those feelings of “not good enough.”

Tal Ben Shahar who taught Positive Psychology at Harvard made it the most popular course in Harvard’s history. His message rang true for that community because one of the tenets of Positive Psychology is that being perfect is a covert secret held by many students including at Harvard because they thought that was the way to gain admission to get in. As a result of attending his course, students came to realize that since perfection is not only unattainable but can lead to self-doubt, depression, and the number one reason that causes unhappiness. The course was liberating for the school community. That is why 900 students signed up for the course. It is now the course that has the most students taking it at Yale as well. I already had a background in Positive Psychology, but Vicki and I decided to take Laurie Santos’ online Positive Psychology Course at Yale during the Covid lockdown as a shared experience. Santos did a terrific job.

Sidney Jourard wrote a book, The Transparent Self, to deal with the quest for wholeness by indicating that the more real people could be, the better that they could connect with people creating richer relationships. His view would be summarized by by EA’s Motto, Esse Quam Videri, “to be rather than to seem to be.” There is a correlation between people accepting their limitations, those thoughts and feelings of vulnerability, and being able to be less judgmental of others.

All three theorists mentioned above essentially were saying that everybody has an Achilles Heel, a perceived weakness, that can be turned into a positive if it helps a person to accept their limitations on the dead end of the road to perfection. The notion of an Achilles Heel gets us off the treadmill of life where we never reach perfection giving the students, if you will, permission to fail. Learn to fail or fail to learn.

I remember the first time I ran on a treadmill after my Achilles injury. It was during a Spring Break when I was in our school fitness center. Only one other person was in the room. I began yelling at the top of my lungs when I realized I was pain free for a limited amount of time, “I did it!” It would take months more before the pain would be bearable.

It was a long road back! You can’t rush it! You have to be patient. The recovery will remind you of your limitations and vulnerability on a daily basis. I only hope that Aaron Rodgers learns those lessons quicker than I did! But I am not sure if he will. After all he was one of the professional football players who chose vulnerability to Covid thus possibly exposing his teammates by not taking the Covid vaccine. He said he was immunized and was allergic to one of the ingredients in the shot. We still don’t know what he meant by being immunized.

He sidestepped taking the Covid Vaccine which left him and his teammates vulnerable to Covid, but he won’t be able to sidestep the vulnerability that comes along with a Achilles Tendon injury. He will be reminded of his vulnerability every step of the way forward.

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