“I Am Nothing”: A Reflection on Rhonda Rousey’s Comments

In May of 2015 both Sports Illustrated and Business Insider named Rhonda Rousey the “world’s most dominant athlete.” She owned an impressive resume: the first U. S. woman ever to win an Olympic medal in Judo (Bronze, 2008); consistently one of the top three ranked judo champions in the world before moving into mixed martial arts; a UFC record of 12-0 with 11 wins coming in the first round and 9 of those via submission by arm bar. It wasn’t a huge surprise when she became the highest paid UFC fighter male or female.

But then, in November 2015, she suffered her first lost when Holly Holm knocked her out. In an interview on The Ellen Show shortly after that devastating loss she said, “I was literally sitting there and thinking about killing myself and at that exact second I’m like, ‘I’m nothing. What do I do anymore? And, no one [cares] about me anymore without this.'”

Her whole identity was inseparable from her image as the “most dominant athlete in the world.” Without this identity–if she couldn’t be known for being this person–she was nothing! She was good for nothing. She was unlovable.

When your identity is tethered to your position or your achievements, then it’s only a matter of time until you end up in a crisis like Rousey. You’re identity isn’t the “world’s most dominant athlete” but it might be in being a good parent. When your child falters or simply grows up and doesn’t need you in the same way, you feel like you’re a nothing. Or maybe your identity is wrapped up in your appearance and as you age or meet other people you consider more attractive, you feel like you’ve lost value. Or maybe your identity is being the smartest person in the room and you can’t admit you are wrong or made a mistake because you can’t stand being exposed.

One of the promises of the gospel is that when we build our identity on Jesus there is a security and stability that transcends aging, performance, job loss, and marital status to name a few of the identities we are tempted to take on. It is no small thing to be unconditionally loved and accepted by God.

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