But St-Pierre, who has been the #1 ranked MMA welterweight fighter in the world for several straight years, a former UFC champion, has now stepped away from the octagon due to the psychological beating he’s taken. In a recent interview, he said that the same indomitable drive and attention to detail that made him a great fighter was “going to drive me crazy.” Publicly announcing his struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), St-Pierre has, in all likelihood, brought his career to an end.
TAKE NOTE: A man who has repeatedly absorbed blows from the hardest-hitting mixed martial artists on the planet has tapped out to the stress and anxiety that is all part of the package deal of perfectionism.
I have a special interest in all of this, having documented previously my similar personal struggles. As a fellow sufferer of OCD, George St-Pierre’s announcement causes me to feel two things. First, my bad boy street cred has never been higher – as this has now confirmed in my mind the obvious correlation between OCD and unquestionably tough, but toxically control-hungry dudes. Second, and more importantly, it’s interesting to me that while we fight so hard to protect ourselves (and our children) from physical danger, we almost universally applaud fanatical, obsessive work. Yet, at least in our country, the latter is the thing that frequently causes more harm. As a society, we put people who demonstrate physically destructive behavior behind bars, but we give promotions to people who demonstrate (arguably) destructive psychological behavior.
As a fairly high-volume stress guy, I’ve spent many hours contemplating the cause of my anxiety. While I’m sure that the traditional nature/nurture analysis offered by modern psychology probably factors in, I’m also certain that 99% of it is simply sinful worry.
Consequently, using the resources the gospel gives us to find PEACE (the opposite of anxiety), has been invaluable to me.
The Biblical Analysis
The word for anxiety in the Bible comes from a little Greek word merimna. It’s related to the word meris, which means “a part.” So, merimna literally means to be broken down into little pieces. That’s what anxiety is. When you look at your life and you see it NOT going the way you think/feel it’s supposed to go, you psychologically start to break down into little pieces. Ever wonder why it’s called a mental “breakdown?” There you have it.
But there’s this interesting spot in the New Testament where Jesus uses a little wordplay with merimna. It’s in Luke 10, where we’re told the story of Martha and Mary (whose names obviously sound similar to this word). These two sisters are having Jesus over for a dinner party. Martha is frantically running around the house finishing her preparations for the company. Mary is just quietly sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to Jesus. Martha is livid that her sister could be so careless and ineffective. Mary is at peace, recognizing that even if the house is a mess, it’s no big deal, because she knows the one thing needful is getting done.
Everyday I have to repent of my Martha and become more Mary. I’ve found that when I’m Martha – counting the millions of things that should be getting done, beholding the rainbow of obligation that is my Microsoft Outlook calendar, feeling like I’m continuously falling behind, I get miserable. When I’m Mary – getting a solid amount of devotional and prayer time with Jesus, the life circumstances don’t change dramatically, but my ability to face them does. I find peace instead of finding myself in pieces.
The Biblical Solution
You see, the opposite of anxiety (i.e. “being in pieces”) is single-mindedness. Christians remain calm by way of gospel focus. You have to think. Remember. Jesus encourages this all the time. He often says things along the lines of, “Don’t be anxious, but consider. If you are worried, if you are stressed, you’re not thinking.” (e.g. Matt. 6:25-34/Luke 12:22-34) Worry is actually the absence of gospel thoughts.
Put differently, you can either listen to your sinful heart, which causes worry, or you can talk to your heart with gospel promises, which bring peace. In Psalm 42, King David does exactly this. He’s stressed, anxious, and depressed, so he says, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:5) See what he’s doing? He’s talking to himself in a way that goes far beyond positive secular self-talk. Instead of listening to his heart, he’s speaking to it and telling it what to believe based on God’s love, power, and promises. “Think about this…..Don’t worry so much about this, because God said this, and Jesus did that…” Peace comes when you tell your heart who you are in Jesus.
Your heart will tell you to stress out about this presentation, crumble under the weight of that important test, get depressed about this relational “failure,” freak out about that financial pressure – but none of it really matters too much IF you recognize who’s running this show. The one who was by nature champion, allowed himself to enter a cosmic chokehold, so that you, who by nature should have tapped out, might have your arm raised (2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 3:23-24; 2 Cor. 8:9; 1 Cor. 15:57; 1 John 5:4-5).
There’s only one thing needful. Sit at his feet to listen, learn, and love. It’s the single greatest non-negotiable of life. Only then will you find the peace to deal with all the rest.