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Who do you idolize?  I personally avoid idolizing anyone, even though a few men might rise to a level worthy of emulation. I simply don’t see much wisdom in placing fallible humans on a pedestal of idolatry, because they will invariably let you down. In fact, the higher we lift them, the greater they fall. We see this played out in Hollywood, politics, religious organizations, sports and of course bodybuilding

Olympia Reflections

With the 2015 Mr. Olympia competition in the rearview mirror, watching the reaction to the outcome unfold in online forums and social media is quite entertaining and a bit disturbing. Maybe I’m too engrossed in bodybuilding culture being an IFBB pro competitor myself for the past 11 years, or maybe it’s tied to the subjectivity of the sport; but everyone loves to play “Monday morning quarterback.” Placement, personalities, politics and personal lives — everyone’s got an opinion. The tidal wave of perspectives spreads like wildfire post-Olympia weekend.

One such topic of intense scrutiny entailed the personal life of the reigning king himself: Mr. Olympia Phil Heath. Like bees to honey, heroine to a junkie, or those thirsting for the latest gossip in STAR Magazine, people lost their minds when Phil Heath upon winning his 5th Olympia title said, “I’d like to thank my girlfriend.” The reaction, “What…I thought Phil was married!” thus began the cyberspace, fever-pitched dialogue and accusations in regards to the reigning king of bodybuilding’s personal life.

Back Story

I met Phil in 2004 while guest posing in Colorado upon winning the NPC USA Overall that same year. Thankfully I snuck into the IFBB one year before Phil dominated the USA in 2005. We connected and stayed in touch over the years. Christina and I even attended his wedding with his now ex-wife. The point being, I’ve known Phil on a personal level outside of the bodybuilding arena for over a decade, but I’m not about to go into the intricacies of his personal life. If you hoped for gossip, sorry to disappoint.

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While blessed with perhaps the best God-given genetics in the history of the sport, it’s understandable why countless people idolize his physique. Phil’s the gold standard of modern day bodybuilding. The sport invariably invites opinions and some chose to disagree, but by-in-large Phil is at the pinnacle of professional bodybuilding. Here’s the catch: A perfect score card in the Mr. Olympia doesn’t equate to a perfect score card in all areas of one’s life. Phil’s not perfect any more than the guy writing this article.  That’s the danger of idolizing.


Accidental Pharisees

Marriage is tough. If you don’t believe me then you've neither been married or investigated the statistics. More than half end in divorce around the seven-year mark. Throw bodybuilding into the mix and marriage is even tougher. I imagine wealth, fame and carrying out the demanding travel schedule as Mr. Olympia while countless people vey for your attention doesn’t bolster the chances for a vibrant marriage either. Listen, this isn’t about making excuses for Phil, but we need to watch ourselves lest we become accidental Pharisees.

The Pharisees were the religious leaders of Jesus day. They were extremely devout in their adherence to the laws of the Old Testament and spent a disproportionate amount of time following Jesus around trying to trap him with legalistic questions like, "is it okay to heal people on the Sabbath?"  As if healing and serving the sick constituted a sin if done on the so-called “day of rest.”  Interestingly enough, Jesus spends more time confronting and condemning the religious Pharisees than he does those whose sin is apparent for the entire world to see. Why? Because God doesn’t look at the external appearances, nor does he read the gossip articles. God’s primarily concerned about the motives and the heart of a person.

I’m not here to extol or condemn Phil; he’ll give an account for his life just like you and me. I’m here to say that idolatry is both foolish and unfair. Foolish to assume that because someone excels or reaches the apex of success in one area of life, that the same standard will bleed into all other areas of life. I’m asking you to check your own heart before placing someone in a position unfit for fallible humans because it places elevates unfair expectations. This article really isn’t about Phil at all.

Bottom Line

The problem with idols is that they eventually let us down. Those placing people on pedestals in turn experience devastation by their idols’ downfall. I’ve seen these scenarios wreck people as their sense of trust and faith is traumatized following that person’s plunge from grace. Ultimately, there is a shared responsibility here. Those in a position of influence or power ought to hold themselves to a higher standard realizing the profound ramifications their actions play in others’ lives. But the responsibility doesn’t terminate on our fallen idols because we share culpability. Why? Because we placed undue, impractical expectations on another human being and for that we’re in error.