More Than A Game is a series about life lessons I learn from observing or participating in sports. The first in this series was about Phil Mickelson (click here to read).
A few days ago I took my son to a driving range to hit some golf balls. My hope is that one day he will play golf so that I can kill two birds with one stone…be a good father and play the game I love. It has been a long time since I have done anything sports related with my son. You see, when it comes to sports I can be the biggest a–hole mankind has ever seen. I had to take some time off from coaching my son because every time I tried to teach my son sports, I would treat him like crap. Sometimes I will sit next to him while he is sleeping and weep because I know this kid deserves better than he gets from me.
After a self-imposed hiatus from coaching I decided to reengage. While preparing for a sermon one week I came to the realization that good coaches don’t just demand good performance. Good coaches understand how to bring out the best in each player and help them be the best player they can be. Good coaches love their players, care for their players and want to see their players succeed. Most coaches are like me, they use people to help them succeed. This realization taught me to just enjoy being with my son and to stop being hurtful to him through the coaching process. He is always asking me to take him to play golf.
So we go. During this male bonding I saw that my son is a really good learner, IF AND WHEN I carefully and gently explain things to him. Sometimes he wouldn’t get it but for the first time I used my God-given talents to find ways to help him. Let me explain. According to STRENGTH FINDERS 2.0 (one of my favorite books of all time) my five talents are Communication, Strategic, Activator, Focus, and Significance. Now I know this means nothing to most of you…in a nutshell, one of my strengths is communication. This does not mean I speak well necessarily. It is a little more than that. It is the gift of knowing how to say the same thing in different ways so that people can understand what I am trying to say or teach. You see I use this gift every week when I preach. I never thought to use my talents for my family. I only use them for church. This time around I decided to use my strengths to help my son. If he couldn’t get something right I would find three or four different ways to explain it.
The hiatus I took from coaching wasn’t just my decision. I was such an a–hole to my son that he didn’t want to be with me either because of how I made him feel. Not only did he feel unloved, he also felt like he would never get good at sports. The reason why I had to repent is because my son is really hard working and will try and try and try till he gets it. You see 3 years ago I tried to teach my son how to play t-ball. He was so excited but I kept yelling at him. I kept losing my patience. Why? For no other reason than I was taking out my life’s frustration on him. My stress. My baggage. After 30 minutes of being mentally abused my son ran to my wife crying saying, “I don’t want to play baseball anymore. Daddy doesn’t like me.”
This tore up my heart but my heart was so dark that that event didn’t change my heart. Can you imagine how hard the human heart has to become to act like this? Later on I saw a movie called “Little Miss Sunshine”. Well the dad in that movie is a self-help guy who is trying to make it big with his version of the ten steps towards success. Throughout the movie he repeatedly divides people into two categories: winners and losers. There is a scene in the movie where his daughter is talking to her grandfather and says something like, “Grandpa, do you think I am pretty?” He says of course. She says, “Because I don’t want dad to think I am a loser.”
I never cry in movies. Seriously never. But somehow that movie served as a mirror into what I was doing to my kids especially my son. I can’t watch that movie and not tear up. My idols…I learned that I can’t get rid of them unless I hate them. I can’t place good things in their proper context unless I hate the realities that emerge when they become ultimate things. I hated my idols that day. It began a slow process of change and healing.
Maybe this sounds like common sense, but in my marriage and family life I am really seeing the value and beauty of discovering our strengths, accepting our strengths, and then operating out of our strengths. My son now asks me all the time to play sports. This hasn’t happened in over a year.
For those of you who are struggling with kids or spouses…try to find their strengths. Try to approach these relationships using your strengths for their good not yours. It will make a difference. I am living proof. If my blog tells any story its that I am fool but I have found grace. You see, most people (including myself) always think that a parent’s love for a child is so unconditional. That is not completely true. I believe there is something about children where their love is more resilient than ours as adults. No matter how bad I am to my kids, they love me no matter what. There love for me is so much more unconditional than mine is for them. Now I know this might change in the future (ie: the teenage years) but for now it is true.
I try really hard not to get religious on people. Just one thought…the Bible says in the book of Proverbs, which is wisdom literature, “Though a righteous man falls seven times he rises again but the wicked are brought down by calamity.” The reason I share this verse…I always thought righteous people never fall. The church messed me up. It taught me that good people go to heaven and that good people don’t do bad things. The Bible assumes we will fall. In fact, in Hebrew writing the number 7 often means whole, complete. The nuance here can be…though a man fall over and over and over again, he rises.
Why the heck am I sharing this? This past week felt heavy sharing the darker side of my soul. I assume you can relate to my failures directly or indirectly. Don’t be discouraged. Righteous people are not those who avoid falling. Righteous people get back up. This week’s entries flow from a discovery of my strengths, my wife’s strengths, our idols, and this thing call love and grace. It is love and grace (from God and each other) that we have embraced the idea that we are both sinner and saint.