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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Don't yell at the refs!

This morning, I am running from God. I don’t want to look him in the eye or rather, I don’t want to see the disappointment when he looks in mine. I just got so frustrated last night. It wasn’t about winning or losing. I have seen my children do both and that is not it. It is not even about how my child played. I have seen my children play amazingly well and play poorly, sometimes all in the same game.

It was the refs. You may be thinking, “What else is new?” But hear me out. I am the first to shake a ref’s hand after a game and thank them for coming and taking the time to do what they do. But, something about last night’s game got me so frustrated. I felt helpless. And, then I got mad. I didn’t curse or call names. I didn’t even complain about bad calls. I cheered.

I cheered for the refs when they called a foul. One time, I yelled, “Great call!  That was really a great call!” as I clapped a little too loudly. I was being honest. It was the right call. I was just trying to highlight the fact that there were dozens of other times when the same call could have been made. The other coach had her 7th and 8th grade girls doing a full court press in the basketball game. That wound up being lots of reaching fouls and over the back fouls and one fat lip foul and a couple of “How is that not a foul!” fouls. But very few of those got called.

In the first period, no fouls were called. By the third, fourth and fifth periods, a few more were called. That’s when I started cheering. I wanted to influence the refs, influence the game, change the atmosphere, but I felt powerless to do so.

"Speak the truth in love," we are told, but some situations are hard to figure out. How do I speak the truth and yet hold back the insults, the curses, or the accusations? I guess we all feel that way at times. Sometimes it’s the situation at work with a coworker or boss who doesn’t fight fair. Maybe it’s the teacher at school who has a moving target for what they expect from you. Or maybe it is at home, our parents, a spouse, even our children can frustrate us to no end. How do we sort through our frustration to stay focused on the truth and speak out of love?

Some things I could have done differently last night:
1 – Wait for the right time. Be patient. When we are frustrated it seems like the only time that matters is right now. We can’t see past the moment, past the frustration to see what is coming next. The time for speaking up is often after the intensity of the situation is over and everyone is separated from the emotion of the moment. Sometimes, by then, we realize that we don’t need to say anything at all.

2 – Communicate your frustration. Sometimes you just need to communicate to a trusted friend or even just write in a diary or journal. But when you need to confront someone, it is so empowering to say in a calm voice, “I was so frustrated when…” What you are really showing is--I own my emotions. I can speak of them without being controlled by them. I am willing to talk to you about them because I either care about you and our relationship or because I am required to have a relationship with you because of the situation that we are in. Either way, I don’t want to hurt you. But, I am going to be me. I am going to express my emotions appropriately and you will have to deal with that--But, be careful not to accuse. “You made me feel…” is never a good start. It puts people on the defensive.

3 – Seek relationship. It may seem counter-intuitive to think about the person that you are upset with as a potential friend, but the best result of this confrontation is that you and the other person have a better relationship as a result of the conversation. Until that is your desire, don’t begin the conversation. Go back to #1 above. 

During the conversation, make sure that the other person knows that you want to build or rebuild a friendship through this. If they think you just want to be right or to make them feel guilty, they will defend themselves and attack you. Then, things will get worse, not better.

If they do wind up defending themselves and attacking you, withdraw. Don’t take it personally. Withdraw from them emotionally and don’t be sucked into a fight. Tell them calmly again, “I am not interested in arguing, I was hoping to talk through this and build (or rebuild) a better relationship with you. If you aren’t willing or ready to do that, then we can stop. If you want to try again another day, let me know. I’m here.”

The only thing we really have to offer to others is ourselves. Love yourself. Respect yourself. Extend yourself to others. Oh, and don’t yell at the refs.

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