Tim Duncan Has Bad Knees

hard things

Did you know that Tim Duncan, the all-time leader in the Spurs for points scored and games played, has chronic tendonosis in his knees?  He also has bone-on-bone arthritis.  He lives with the kind of crippling pain that motivates people to let a surgeon use a power tool to cut out their knees and put in a metal replacement.  And not only does he still walk around on his own with this crippling pain–he plays professional basketball.  Up and down.  Jumping, twisting, running from one side of the court to the other, landing his 6’11”, 250 pound frame down hard on the wood floor.  This man. . . is amazing.

How about the Kenyan runners featured on RadioLab?  The Kalenjin are a specific tribe within Western Kenya that have produced an astonishing number of elite runners.  David Epstein of Sports Illustrated said, “”There are 17 American men in history who have run under 2:10 in the marathon. There were 32 Kalenjin who did it in October of 2011.”  They are almost ridiculously dominating in distance running–often coming in first, second, third, fourth and fifth in both women’s and men’s races.  Part of it is that they are genetically perfect running machines.  But another part of it may be that when they are teenagers, they have to go through a rite of initiation into adulthood that culminates in being circumcised with a sharp stick.  And if they even flinch–one little whimper–they are labeled a coward and not fit to be a contributing part of society. To prepare for this, they inflict pain on themselves in horrible ways and learn to deal with it stoically.  They train themselves to handle pain; and anyone who has tried a long distance run will tell you that this is an indispensable asset and may be what gives the Kalenjin a winning advantage.

I’ve been thinking about these two stories quite a bit lately because I have wanted to give up when things get hard–especially if I am just doing something for fun.  Like this blog, for instance.  After the slaughter of the babysitting post, I felt beat up.  I have never felt so exposed and vulnerable.  I started getting mini-anxiety attacks whenever I would open my inbox.  My muscles would tense up, I would breathe very shallowly, my heart would race.  I hated my computer. But I couldn’t stop myself from seeing what new hateful comment had been posted on my facebook page.  I stopped all comments from coming to my inbox.  I didn’t even venture into the Huffington Post’s republication of it.  I was traumatized.  Of course, there was good.  Lots of good came from it.  But the good doesn’t erase the bad.  It was just nice to read while I was tensed and sweating at the computer.  And so I decided–why in the world am I doing this?  What’s the point?  I could be sleeping in.  Heck with it, I’m going to sleep in!  And for pretty much the past month, I’ve been well-rested.

This week, another dramatic experience, this time with the people at my kids’ school, made me want to throw my hands up at the PTA and say, “See you later.  Good luck for the rest of the year.”  Why am I putting myself out there, trying to be helpful and civic-minded and all I get is criticism and negativity?  I feel like I could do more good without being wrapped up in the bureaucratic nonsense of the PTA. My equilibrium is just now being restored from the battering of the past several months, I don’t need energy vampires sucking it all away again. Sayonara.

And then, my wonderful friend sent me an insightful email. It reminded me of Tim Duncan and the Kalenjin.  She compared my negative experiences to the people of Ammonihah to whom Alma went to preach.  They threw him out of the city and told him never to come back.  As he was wiping the dust from his feet, an angel came and commanded him to go back and preach again.  So he hurried back and tried again.  She reminded me not to give up on my objective, and to hurry back in order to make the difference that I intended to make.  And so here I sit, composing another blog post, hoping it will never go viral again.  But also intending my voice to be heard and my faith to ignite the faith of others.  It is a worthy objective and so I will press on.  PTA, *sigh* I will stick it out till the end of the year.  My objective in being involved in my kids’ education can be served in numerous ways. Next year I will try to make a difference in a more personal way.  The ability to persevere is just as important as the wisdom to know what is worthwhile and what is not.  It is mindless exhaustion to believe that we must push hard at everything; but we ought to learn to withstand negativity if the activity has a worthy objective.

We all face challenges in doing the things we set out to do.  Physical pain, emotional drain, criticism, feeling unappreciated, being forgotten or even actively persecuted.   But the ability to persist through the pain and frustration and continue unwavering on a path is the thing that differentiates Tim Duncan and the Kalenjin from the rest of the world.  It’s not necessarily skill, or incredible talent that helps the best rise to the top.  Their success comes from a refusal to give up even when things are horrible.
tim duncan
While I love “We Can Do Hard Things” as a motto, this specific reminder helps me not feel bad for myself and push through pain in order to see my objective through to the end.


  1. #1- I just want to say that I loved your babysitting post and agreed with it wholeheartedly. As the mother of teenagers, I find that they do not get many babysitting jobs, and I think it is because young parents feel they have to pay so much for babysitters that they can’t afford to go out. I would prefer that my kids have more babysitting jobs that pay less than few babysitting jobs at all. Additionally, I think that paying kids too much contributes to a sense of entitlement that is harmful to them and to society as a whole.
    #2 – I can totally relate to your experience that came to you in response to that post. A while ago I wrote a post on my own blog defending traditional marriage. I tried to keep it positive and not make it offensive to anyone, but immediately after posting it I began receiving tons of hateful comments. I closed the comments and then the hateful comments moved over to my Facebook page. It was very hard to be the recipient of so much hate. Even though I knew that there was likely to be a negative response to that subject, the onslaught of so much hate weighed me down, and the things said that were specifically directed at my character and my writing abilities made me feel bad about myself. After a while, I thought the same thing you did: “This is a trial of my own making. I can stop it at any time by removing the post from my blog!” But after praying about it, I felt that the Lord wanted me to keep the article there. And I felt that there was no point in me even having a blog if I couldn’t speak my mind about something important. Scriptures also came to my mind about prophets who were called to preach to sinful people and didn’t want to do it or even had their lives in danger by doing so (Jonah, Lehi, etc). In fact, before I even published the article, my family was discouraging me from doing so because they feared for what would happen to me. And then I was with my daughter watching the General Young Women’s broadcast and the theme was “Stand in Holy Places and Be Not Moved.” I thought of how we teach our children to stand up for their values in the face of peer pressure at school. I was facing the same situation as an adult. There was peer pressure to accept gay marriage and there would be derision for speaking against it, but it was my responsibility to stand in holy places and be not moved.
    Anyway, I just want to say that I feel for you and understand your experience. And I want to add my encouragement to stand strong and do your part to influence the internet (and the world) for good. Recently I saw a post on Chocolate on my Cranium about how she was invited to a conference called “Internet Influencers.” The day before that, my sister who is the wife of a mission president, was telling me how she had been talking to Sheri Dew. Sheri Dew told her that they had been conducting research for Deseret Book and had found that out of all LDS women, 10 % are strong in their beliefs and will not be swayed by outside forces and 10 % are rabble rousers who are trying to get the women to have the priesthood and generally shake things up. The other 80% are basically influenced by whatever they read. Sheri Dew said that the problem is that the 10% who are the rabble rousers are the ones out there writing stuff on the internet. She said what we need is for the 10% who are strong to get on the internet and write stuff. When I heard about the “Internet Influencers” conference, I thought about that. And I realized that it is important to write good and positive and sensical things on the internet and generally be on there trying to influence people for good. If not, it’s only the people who are trying to influence everyone for bad who have a voice.
    So, long story short – great job on trying to be a positive influence and for writing something that has some sense! Have a great day!

  2. I guess I should add, if you’re interested in my post in defense of traditional marriage, you can find it here: http://fhelessons.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/my-epiphany/
    The main point was that all the commandments that Heavenly Father gives to us are given because following them will make us happy while disobeying them will make us unhappy. Thus, if He has given us the law of chastity stating that we should only have sexual relations between a man and a woman who are married to each other, then following that will make us happy and anything else will bring us unhappiness. Thus, we should not support a law which makes same gender sexual relations seem acceptable or normal because doing so does not help the people who choose to be involved in that kind of relationship. If we love those people, we will help them choose the things that will bring them happiness.

  3. ROCK ON JAN!!! You will surpass your wildest dreams. Keep the objective in mind and it will matter. You do matter. Chin up girl.

  4. I love your blog. You have a great ability to break down complex ideas into easy to understand truths. I know some people who have an internet presence have a trusted friend sift through the comments and then give a summary of the helpful feedback. It’s the only way they can keep doing what they are doing. Please keep writing, I need all the wisdom I can get!

  5. I was unaware of Timmy’s bad knees. It just makes me like him that much more and realize what a softie I am:) Great reminder, Jan. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” -Phillipians 4:14

  6. I am glad you are toughing it out too! I have enjoyed your blog. I haven’t ever experienced the type of publicity your post got, but I have had some pretty mean comments. I have found that what doesn’t kill me just makes me stronger. I have become MUCH stronger in my faith and MUCh stronger writer because of the attacks I have gotten. Sometimes it can be a refining fire though!

    • Heather, I love your blog too. Thanks for the encouragement. You’re right, I’m becoming tougher and more calloused. I am just not sure that’s the direction that I want to be going . . .

  7. I thought your babysitting post was extremely insightful what would anyone have to be negative about it?! So I came to your blog and am enjoying that too. So keep on writing!!!

  8. When it seems that every other Mormon website is full of fluff and/or negativity, it’s wonderful to read the wisdom and insight you bring to each post on topics that matter to me. As one who should probably stop sleeping in and get to work bettering the world, I appreciate you stepping it up for the team and playing this season injuries and all!

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