A Wimbledon Tennis Lesson: The Grace We Need

We often see in sports what we wish could be true in everyday life. This weekend's epic Wimbledon men's final was the best example I've seen in years, when Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal exhibited in the heat of battle a sense of grace that each us can only hope to embrace. There are lessons here for each of us and for public life. Much has been written about the superior play in the Wimbledon final, but for me the most magical moment came when play ended. As Federer and Nadal approached the net for the customary handshake and perfunctory passing comments, something remarkable happened. The two men stood there grasping the other, their deep sense of affection for each other on clear display for all to see. In their on-court, post-match interviews, both spoke more about his opponent than about himself; each sung the praise of the other; neither sulked nor gloated.

Put yourself in their shoes: is this what we expect of them or ourselves?

Their display of grace went far beyond what anyone at NBC Sports or even the folks at Disney could have scripted. For in that moment when the match ends, with millions of people watching, glee or sadness takes over and drives one's behavior and spirit. We have all witnessed the miserable or dejected player at the end of a competition. One only needs to visit the nearest Little League field to know what I mean. What is remarkable is that these two individuals found a different path to take.

Each of us encounters situations daily when we face a choice about whether to usher in a sense of grace. Think about your own work situations, your own life, and consider these questions:

How do we see "the other person" -- our colleague, someone we're battling, an individual who threatens us in some way?What do we do under pressure -- do we maintain some semblance of forthrightness and perspective?What happens when we win -- do we hold a sense of gratitude, and an appreciation for the "gift," or do we want even more, believing that everything is to be had?What do we seek to control -- do we believe that everything ultimately can be within our grasp, in our control, or do we see that an attitude of "all or nothing" will lead us astray in some way?

I have long believed that we must fight, and fight hard, to bring about the change we want in public life -- for instance, to ensure that all kids can get a good public school education. But what choices do we make as we take on that fight? What do each of us ultimately say and do?

My hope is that we engage with a sense of grace -- for our own sake, and for the health of public life.