Play hurt

complainIn the world of athletics, the phrase playing hurt is used to describe an athlete who continues to play even though he or she is injured. It also describes a necessary life skill that we all need to develop—sometimes we must continue to function, despite pain and adversity.

Here are some interesting thoughts from an article by Peggy Noonan that appeared in the Wall Street Journal, January 11, 2002.

“There’s a small but telling scene in Ridley Scott’s ‘Black Hawk Down’ that contains some dialogue that reverberates, at least for me. In the spirit of Samuel Johnson, who said man needs more often to be reminded than instructed, I offer it to all, including myself, who might benefit from its message.

“The movie, as you know, is about the Battle of the Bakara Market in Mogadishu, Somalia, in October 1993. In the scene, the actor Tom Sizemore, playing your basic tough-guy U.S. Army Ranger colonel, is in charge of a small convoy of humvees trying to make its way back to base under heavy gun and rocket fire. The colonel stops the convoy, takes in some wounded, tears a dead driver out of a driver’s seat, and barks at a bleeding sergeant who’s standing in shock nearby:

  • Colonel: Get into that truck and drive.
  • Sergeant: But I’m shot, Colonel.
  • Colonel: Everybody’s shot, get in and drive.”

Everybody’s been shot. Everyone’s been wounded. All of us have suffered a deep bruise. It’s one thing we all have in common.

But don’t think your wound gives you permission to sit on the sidelines; it doesn’t exempt you from fully engaging in life and being responsible for outcomes.

Don’t be defined by your wound and don’t let it put you on the bench. When life demands it, play hurt.

I saw this steely resolve displayed in church one Sunday morning. Moments before the worship service started, my pastor received some tragic news about a member of his family. I watched with amazement as he carried out his duties (even preaching a sermon) with grace and dignity, never letting on to the emotional turmoil that was going on inside.

There will be times in your life when you must play hurt. You’ll need to clamp down on physical or emotional discomfort and continue to perform. That’s not denial; it’s courage, control, and fortitude in action.

[reminder]What are your thoughts about this topic?[/reminder]

What? – Often, we must continue to function despite hardships.
So what? – Develop the emotional fortitude to play hurt.
Now what?

15 Replies to “Play hurt”

  1. Yes, Don, I completely agree. How essential that we, as you say, “Don’t be defined by your wound and don’t let it put you on the bench. When life demands it, play hurt.”

    Our wounds and weaknesses are often the very things God uses to make us more effective. Thanks for your profound posts that force me to think.

    1. Wayne, thanks for sharing your thoughts, particularly reminding us of the fact that God uses our weaknesses for his glory. Thanks for being my friend. don

  2. I can only say that I understand this article only too well. I have been living with chronic paid for over 15 years. If I didn’t fight through it every day I would have been in a wheel chair 15 years ago.
    Thank God for His grace and fellow Christians who have helped me live my life they way God intended without giving in to the pain and feeling sorry for myself.

    1. Ed, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m so sorry for your constant pain. I don’t know how you do it, but I see you so often at church, serving others. Thanks for continuing to pursue life even through pain. Don

  3. When someone plays hurt, they should be ready to accept some risks related to that choice. [1] It’s highly unlikely that their performance is going to be optimal. If the injured one is playing on a team, the whole team should be aware of these lowered expectations; otherwise, they may call out plays based on incorrect information which could lead to failure in executing the play. [2] Playing injured risks aggravating the injury, increasing recovery time, and/or creating different injuries. Knowingly playing with a concussion, then suing the NFL later doesn’t really work in real life.

    It’s true that sometime you just have to drive, even when you’re shot. But, the sooner you can get to the medic, the better your service over the course of your career. (I didn’t see that movie, so I don’t know if the driver made it out alive, or not. My understanding of the story is that precious few, if any, survived. If that’s true, so much for playing hurt.)

    1. Doug, thanks for sharing your thoughts. You’re right, playing hurt is not optimal and it can’t be sustained for long, but sometimes we must. Kind regards,

  4. Thank you for this message, Don.

    Those of us who have been looking for a good job for an extended period of time need this encouragement.

    Have a blessed day!

    Rita Brooks

    1. Thanks, Rita, for your note. I’ve been unemployed two times in my career and it is, indeed, a difficult time. I hope you will soon find a job that is totally satisfying and will meet your needs.

  5. Amen! I lost my mother the end of February 2013. I went to work just like always because it was my job.

    1. Olin, I’m so sorry to hear of your mother’s passing. But I’m glad you made the decision to go on with life. That is what she would have wanted.
      Take care,

  6. Don, this is just what I needed to hear today. Parkinson’s is getting progressivly worse until Pete, my husband of 44+ years, can no longer handle the basics that many of us take for granted. I do oday most of the time but what I need to hear occasionally is “Everybody’s shot get in and drive.”Thanks!!

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