Encourage Rather Than Discourage

I love sports. Growing up, baseball was my favorite. I have noticed there are those who play for the love of the game, and then there are those who play for the pay of the game. I have noticed that those who play for pay get paid very well. Maybe even a nine-year contract for three hundred and sixty million dollars. Also, I have noticed those players who get paid millions let ground balls roll through their legs, strike out, have wild throws, miss cutoff men and drop fly balls. 

I am surprised that those paid professionals make errors and it gets overlooked. Of course, if they make the mistakes often enough, or at crucial times, they’ll be cut the next day. But they get paid millions and commit the same errors that a boy or girl makes who play for the love of the game would make. But when those who love the game make an error, it’s highlighted. It’s not unusual for the coach to start yelling at them, humiliate them, and sit them on the bench to punish them. By comparison, the mistake between the player getting paid and the one who loves the game is equal, but they are not treated equally. 

I coached Codie from the time he was seven years old until he was sixteen. While he was in little league, I had a revelation during a game. Codie was sick and couldn’t play. I noticed that during that game I was calm and never raised my voice when a boy messed up. I just encouraged him and told him he would do better. It dawned on me: “Why do I yell when Codie is here but remain calm when he is sick?” Hum! From that moment on, I never yelled when a player committed an error. 

The fervor of the competition ought not alter who we are. Competitiveness brings out the bear in us. We want to win. We want to win so badly that we forget that the person playing the game is a person, imperfect and prone to make errors. There is no such thing as a game without errors. Never has been and never will be. Errors are part of competing.

That is the way life is, too. There is no such thing as a perfect person. We all make mistakes, and through God’s grace we learn to live with them. We don’t need anyone shoving them in our face or demeaning us because of them. We need someone to pick us up when we’ve fallen. Someone to comfort us when we know we messed up. There may be the need for firmness. But we can be firm without making the person feel bad.

Here is the “why” of all this: there's a young man who I know that's really an excellent young man. He is respectful, talented, caring, and plays with his heart. He’s good at playing football and other sports. Sadly, he’s endured this harsh treatment from his coach for two years. The coach even called him “a cancer”. Yet he continued to play and even made all-district. I just want him to know that he is not the one in the wrong. That he is a child of God, regardless of what a dispirited coach may say. That he is loved and admired. He is highly respected for how he conducted himself with an adult who was less mature. One day this young man will help others.

Let’s lift up, not tear down. When we do need to offer correction, let’s do it with a spirit of love and genuine care (Gal. 6:1). Also, remember it may be us the next time that needs help.

Rickie Jenkins