We all have 'twisties'


By Erik Alsgaard – July 28, 2021

Simone Biles is a GOAT. No, seriously.

She’s a GOAT: “Greatest of All Time.”

If, like me, you’ve been following the Olympics in Tokyo these last few days, you already know that Biles made headlines by withdrawing from the women’s team gymnastics competition. In an interview later, Biles said she had “a little case of the twisties.”

Immediately, if not sooner, social media lit up. And of course, being the bastion of grace, forgiveness, understanding, and mercy that it is, some commenting on social media raked Biles over the coals for “quitting” on her teammates.

Other more understanding people also responded, noting how an all-time champion like Biles performs at such an elite (and almost incomprehensible to we mere mortals) and dangerous level that one slip-up, even in thinking, could be disastrous, both for her and the team.

So, what happened?

A little case of the twisties.

In a great article by Emily Giambalvo in the July 28 Washington Post, twisties are described as something similar to “the yips” in golf. Giambalvo writes, “When gymnasts have the ‘twisties,’ they lose control of their bodies as they spin through the air. Sometimes they twist when they hadn’t planned to. Other times they stop midway through, as Biles did. And after experiencing the twisties once, it’s very difficult to forget. Instinct gets replaced by thought. Thought quickly leads to worry. Worry is difficult to escape.”

After reading that article, and hearing from a trusted friend about the pressure-cooker that these Olympic Games are right now, especially in light of COVID-19 protocols, I said to myself, “that’ll preach.”

So, here goes.

The twisties, if I understand it right, essentially means that a person gets lost in the air after they jump. In many ways over the last 18 months or so, we’ve all gotten “lost in the air.” The pandemic has made us jump in new and uncomfortable and dangerous and crazy ways. I would dare say that we’ve jumped so many times and gotten lost in the air so often that it’s become a new normal.

The problem is, we’ve forgotten that this isn’t normal.

We’re not supposed to wear masks everywhere we go. We’re not supposed to argue with science over taking a vaccination. We’re not supposed to pit ourselves against others who think differently or disagree with our positions on both of the above.

We’ve become a nation that divides on just about anything, all at the drop of a hat… or an athlete dropping down from a vault.

Is social media to blame? That’s an easy target, sure, and I’m not dismissing that. But it’s the people who create and consume the content (posts/tweets/etc.) on social media that are to blame, if you ask me. Social media is just the tool; use it for good, use it for evil, it’s your choice.

It’s easy to create fake profiles online and then sit back and post racist, sexist, homophobic rants behind the cloak of anonymity. What we need to address, as the church especially, is the hurt, pain, anger, and frustration behind those posts. If the church isn’t doing that, then what are we doing?

I also think that the strong push-back against Biles’ claiming her truth about the twisties is that people are reacting to seeing themselves in her: “How dare she say things aren’t normal?! I’ve been living with abnormal for 18 months; so should she!”

In 12-step fellowships, they say that the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. It is also the hardest step. Simone Biles has simply, publicly, taken that first step: she admitted that she had a problem. And the world is reacting predictably.

Part of the world reacted by saying, “She’s the best! She’s trained for years! She’s not supposed to have problems!” And they get bombarded with social media rants that would curl your toes.

Part of the world reacted by saying, “I know what you mean. I’ve been there, floating in mid-air, wondering where I’m going to land.”

It’s our choice. Which world do you want to be a part of? The one filled with hatred, or the one filled with kindness.

I know which world Jesus wants us to be in. I know what world I want to be in.

How’bout you?