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How boxing champ Tyson Fury’s journey with mental illness shows the victory in carrying your cross

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(LifeSiteNews) — Undefeated heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury’s battle with mental illness perfectly illustrates that no matter who we are, at the daunting intersection of psychology and spirituality we all have the same calling: to humbly pick up our cross and follow Him.

In a world where masculinity is maligned as “toxic,” killing a baby is called a “right,” and enslavement to vice is heralded as freedom, it is of little surprise to us Christians that we are living in an era suffering from a deep crisis of meaning.

On the other hand, it is also of little to no surprise that men like psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson, who provide at least some form of a solution to meaninglessness and nihilism through a psycho-spiritual approach rather than abject secularism, have struck a chord with many of today’s aimless young people.

Whether Fury has realized it or not, his story of becoming a famous boxer, only to descend into serious bouts of manic depression, alcoholism, and drug abuse, to eventually getting sober, deepening his relationship with Christ, and climbing his way back to the top of boxing, is proof positive that the only true victories come from the cross.

In one interview Fury admits that even during his meteoric rise to the top of boxing, he was depressed. Although his career provided a distraction, it was ultimately insufficient to stave off the feelings of meaninglessness that lurked in the background.

In other words, even the most extreme forms of worldly success are not enough to satisfy the human soul’s desire for true purpose.

“I think being a sportsman did help me. I had a drive, I had a goal to achieve,” Fury explained.

“But when that goal was achieved, then I had nothing to look forward to. Then it all came flooding out, then I had a mental breakdown,” added the boxer, who after his 2015 title fight in which he became heavyweight champion descended into suicidal depression and addiction.

In an interview with Joe Rogan, Fury talks about how instead of facing his problem with depression head on, he attempted to hide from his feelings with drugs, alcohol, and “women of the night.” Predictably, this compounded the problem, leading to a spiritual and psychological decay that ended with him nearly committing suicide.

Well, then how does a man go from a washed up, drunk, drug-addled, suicidal ex-boxer, to coming back to the sport just as dominant, and publicly announcing his love for the “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” after every victory?

The cross.

In one telling of the story, Fury explains that while driving his brand-new Ferrari at breakneck speed, he felt as though he could no longer deny his desire to die, and aimed to crash the car.

At that moment, approaching certain death, he heard a voice that simply stated “No.”

The voice told Fury that he cannot end his life, he has a responsibility to take care of his wife and children. In effect, Fury realized that he had an obligation to fulfil his vocation as a father and husband, and carrying the cross of mental illness was the only path forward.

To quote Peterson on responsibility, “To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open. It means deciding to voluntarily transform the chaos of potential into the realities of habitable order … It means willingly undertaking the sacrifices necessary to generate a productive and meaningful reality.”

In Fury’s telling of his story, he relays an event in which after realizing he needed help, his father took him to a psychiatrist. The doctor told Fury’s father that likely the only thing that kept his son alive was the faith in Christ he managed to hold on to in some fashion despite his struggles.

According to Fury, the psychiatrist told his father that without a willingness to get help, he was an “imminent death risk.”

Where Peterson and psychologists miss the mark, and where Fury’s story hits it on the head, is the understanding that one’s cross is not just a means to a satisfying temporal life, but the reason good lives, and lives at all, exist in the way they do.

While Peterson’s advice to bear the cross is wise, Fury’s understanding that bearing the cross is not just wise, but a moral requirement by virtue of our duty to Christ, lays the foundation that Peterson’s advice ultimately depends upon.

Fury’s comeback teaches us what we all intuitively know, but what many in the modern world deny until their dying breath. The only path forward is to bear your cross, and the more you avoid your cross, the heavier it becomes.

Moreover, his story shows us that the purely psychological approach fails to answer why we need a cross, or who gave us our cross. This confusion more often than not leads to a frustration with our cross, rather than a humbling acceptance.

When we become frustrated with our cross we often think we are avoiding suffering, but when we avoid our cross we are actually avoiding a deep source of our meaning.

As I was thinking of Fury’s story, I kept thinking about the parable of the lost sheep. Namely, how the parable makes clear that the joy resulting from finding what was lost is always greater than the joy for what we have always possessed.

Or as I see it, if we have let our cross get heavier than ever, there is no better time to pick it back up.

Jack Bingham is an addiction recovery advocate and author turned Catholic journalist and writer. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Laurentian University and currently resides in Western Canada with his wife and children.

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