University of Notre Dame
University of Notre Dame


Judge Wisely and Fear Not

My 4th year here was accompanied by our football team’s run to the national championship. I promised early in the season not to shave until the team lost. Refusing to fear the consequences of this decision and trusting my judgment that I was doing something memorable and meaningful, I went through job interviews, dances, and most of boxing season with a full beard. I even turned down a chance to go to Donald Trump’s Christmas party because my date did not think I would look presentable enough unless I shaved. This culminated in a sweaty trip to Miami where I met a man who made the same no-shave commitment, persevering even when his girlfriend refused to kiss him for two months. The picture displayed here was taken of us, smiling and laughing together, just hours before the national championship game. Unfortunately, we were compelled to shave later that night, but the journey was worth it.

The two phrases that most defined my transition to freshman year were “Do not be afraid” and “Don’t judge.” One of these is the most common clause in the bible and my favorite quote. The other has become a common motto among our generation and, I believe, is dangerous to live by. It is imperative to live without fear. It is impossible to live without judging. It is impossible to grow into the best person one can be while fearing. It is imperative to define principles and boundaries and to live by them, judging encounters by whether they fall within or outside of these bounds. It is wrong to be afraid to step out of these bounds to learn and grow, but it is more wrong to be afraid to judge, to be afraid to define our boundaries and principles, because of what we might find ourselves fenced off from. Growth begins at the end of your comfort zone, so judge wisely and fear not.

Over the past few years I have learned the value of smiles and names. I told the freshman in Knott Hall last year during orientation that the only thing you need to do to make friends at Notre Dame is smile. I was wrong, but only partially. That initial smile is crucial in making friends here, but accompanying it with a name is very helpful. I have been told that a person’s favorite word is his or her name. I’m not sure if we would all admit this and it might not even be true, but there sure is power in a name, especially when it is accompanied by a smile.

During our football team’s 2012 run to the national championship, I made the difficult decision to place value in a materially worthless commitment. The team did not even win, but I felt victorious. I had judged well, rejected fear, and even enjoyed the smile of another at the end. Unknowingly, he and I had waged war together. Me. Him. We. My bearded brother. Mason.