Chasing Approval: What I Learned From “Chasing Tyson”

chasing tysonEvander Holyfield never got the credit he was due.  At least that’s the way ESPN Films’ Chasing Tyson (currently on Netflix) tells the story about the former heavyweight champ’s boxing career.

The film describes a world electrified by the phenom that was Mike Tyson.  Tyson was seen an unstoppable wrecking ball of a fighter, and between dominating his opponents and having famed boxing promoter Don King in his corner, Tyson achieved near legendary status.

Holyfield, on the other hand, was a talented athlete, but was quieter and didn’t have the swagger that Tyson and his crew had.  He was always in Tyson’s shadow, and though he wanted to face off with “Iron” Mike in the ring, their superfight was met by one delay after another, stretching out over the course of several years.

When Holyfield eventually won the heavyweight title, people largely acted as if the title had less value because it hadn’t been won against Tyson (Holyfield won the belt from Buster Douglas, who had shocked the world by upsetting Tyson not long before Tyson and Holyfield were supposed to square off).  In the years that followed, critics tried to force Holyfield to play the comparison game, as if he somehow was a lesser fighter because he hadn’t yet faced Tyson.  Nobody except Holyfield himself was willing to concede that “The Real Deal” was truly the best heavyweight in the world.  As Holyfield puts it in the film, “I’m chasing titles, I wasn’t chasing Tyson.”

The comparison game is dangerous.  Comparing ourselves to others causes us to constantly hunger and thirst for the approval of others, which can never ultimately satisfy us.

As believers in Christ, we have to constantly remind ourselves that there’s no need to work for the approval of men because we’ve already received God’s approval through the sacrifice of Jesus.  In Galatians 1:10, the Apostle Paul is blunt in saying that he doesn’t chase human approval.  He writes,

“If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.”

Well then, that’s about as to-the-point as you can get.

Those who aspire to please Jesus cannot simultaneously try to please people.  There are too many conflicting ideals.  That’s not to say the Kingdom of God should clash with everyone all the time, just that others’ standards are not those by which we should measure our success.

Evander Holyfield eventually fought, and beat, Mike Tyson…twice. But even still, there seems to be some doubt as to who was the better fighter. After all, even the documentary about Holyfield’s career is named after Tyson! Don’t play the comparison game. You’ll only end up chasing others’ approval.

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