Nike ad channels JPII: Be great. Just Do It!


“Don’t ever settle for anything less than the spiritual and moral greatness the grace of God makes possible in your life. You’ll fail; we all do. But that’s no reason to lower the bar of expectation. Get up, dust yourself off, seek forgiveness and reconciliation, and then keep trying. But don’t ever settle for being less than noble human being – the leader and exemplar ‐‐ you can be.” —Blessed John Paul II


With (if the code fails to embed the video it is VERY worth the watch here.):


It’s just something we made up.
Somehow we’ve come to believe that greatness is a gift, reserved for a chosen few.
For prodigies.
For superstars.
And the rest of us can only stand by watching.
You can forget that.
Greatness is not some rare DNS strand.
It’s not some precious thing.
Greatness is no more unique to us than breathing.
We’re all capable of it.
All of us.

Taken by itself, the text could possibly read like the flattening “you are so special, just like everyone else!” and “everyone gets a trophy” ethos infecting education and youth sports these days:

And taken by itself the video could be “laugh at the fat kid who can’t run.”

But together they are neither. They are:

The look on that boy’s face as he trudged along was not “how much longer do I have to go?” It was not “I’m just doing this for the camera.”

It was, “I can be better than this. And I will be.”

That’s the spiritual life in an athletic apparel commercial there, folks. Spiritually we’re all the fat boy people laugh at and pick on who desperately wants to be—and is made to be—slender, healthy, agile, light, in the prime of life. No saint was born a saint. No sanctity is easy. No path to holiness is navigated in a chauffeured golf cart.

We have to suck it up and “compete well,” “finish the race,” as St. Paul proclaimed. We have to “run so as to win.” We have to “make up in [our own bodies] for what was lacking in the sufferings of Christ.”

We follow a crucified Savior who told us explicitly that if we are to be His followers we would have to take up our cross—daily—and follow him.

For Him that meant Golgotha. It does not mean blood martyrdom for all, or even most. But whatever it does mean for you, or me, we can rest in the knowledge that while it will not be easy by worldly standards, His “yoke is easy, and his burden light.” In the world we “will have troubles. But take courage, for [He] has overcome the world!

Spiritual sloth—acedia—a great trick of the devil keeps us spiritually fat and down on our own possibility to be slender and sleek and beautiful. We are convinced by the greatness of the greats that greatness is beyond our reach.

Not so!

The greats became great not through some trick of nature or infused greatness by God, but by making the next moral decision the right one. And the one after that. And the one after that. Etc. Eventually doing the right became the norm, while doing the wrong, while still eminently possible and still somewhat attractive (read: tempting), became easier to refuse. You, and I, can do that, too!

Athletes deny themselves many pleasures while training. They also refuse to quit training though their minds and/or bodies scream for rest. They refuse to accept that they cannot run further, faster, than they did last time. They refuse to accept that they cannot get better. They refuse to give in to their lesser, lazier selves.

Again: how is this different from attacking the spiritual life?! Lord “I do believe, help my unbelief!”

So expect, and run after, spiritual greatness for yourself! Greatness is available, offered, yours for the taking! I am that boy running down that farm road, and so are you—let us not accept or give in to the easy, comfortable, route. Let us keep putting one foot in front of the other, as trudgingly as we must, as we wend our way to the crown of righteousness that the Lord holds for us and for all who have longed and striven for his appearance!



  • teep

    I thought along similar lines when I saw this add. It is the best thing Nike’s put out in years. I was kind of shocked by how good it was. I am so glad you talked about it, especially after the Ragu and Skittles discussion on this blog over the past week.

  • Alvin

    Thanks Tom! An uplifting and necessary message…



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