Don’t Keep Score

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I’m an athlete and I love to keep score. I wear a GPS watch on all my runs so I can record my distance, time, and pace to see if I’m getting better. When I coached, I tried to make as much of practice a competition as possible so that my players would work hard for the experience of ‘winning.’ As a sales professional, I work with a weekly ‘scoreboard’ that our company calls a dashboard and shows how much each person has sold in relation to one another and towards our personal goals. I love to keep score because I love to win.

Recently, however, I’ve realized that there are certain areas of my life where I shouldn’t be keeping score. I was using a scoreboard in every part of my life and it was putting strain on relationships. Yesterday, I was perusing a craft shop in Asheville, NC and came across a piece of art that had “The Golden Rule” in 12 different religious backgrounds. In my faith background, Jesus told his followers: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:30). What is sometimes overlooked are the verses leading up to this powerful statement that include instructions such as “bless those who curse you…if someone strikes you on the cheek, turn to him the other also…give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” It sounds to me like Jesus is saying: “Don’t Keep Score.”

There are 4 areas in particular that I am trying to stop using a scoreboard.

My marriage – When you keep a marriage scoreboard, both teams lose. Whether it is keeping track of how many times you’ve done the dishes or laundry and using that to guilt him in to washing the dishes for once or reminding her how many ‘girls nights out’ or ‘fun weekends with her friends’ she’s had so that you can justify spending an entire Saturday at the golf course; keeping score in marriage is dangerous. Your marriage scoreboard starts to lead to keeping records of hurts as well and hurting back to even the score, and it leads to arrogance about how good a parent you are because of all of the time you’ve spent with your kids and disgust with your partner for how absent they are with the family. Fortunately for me, my wife allowed me to invoke the ‘mercy rule’ a couple of years ago because I was getting slaughtered so bad I could never catch up. Ever since, I’ve just tried to remind myself of this Shinto teaching: The heart of the person before you is a mirror. See there your own form.

My kids – If my parents had kept score of all of the stuff they’ve done for me, all I’d do the rest of my life is try to repay them. I have decided the only way I can repay them is to do all I can to give as much love, caring, discipline, and direction to my kids as they gave me. Our children take so much of our time, there is no way they can ever give enough back to us to make things even, so instead I choose to keep in mind the words (slightly altered) of the philosopher Seneca: Treat your inferiors (children) as you would be treated by your superiors (parents).

My colleagues – For a long time, I kept a mental record of every good deed and favor I did for a colleague with an expectation that it would be paid back in some way. What I realized is that is a pretty miserable way to go through my work life. There are people that we work with that are not in a position to ever really help us – we should help them anyway. There are people who we work with who always need something from us and never offer any assistance our way – we should help them anyway. There are people who we work with who take advantage of our drive to succeed and take credit for our work – we should help them anyway. A good reminder in the workplace comes from Jainism: In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self.

My friends – Friendships are hard enough without a scoreboard. If I ended every friendship that had a scar from a pain inflicted by that friend, I’d be a pretty lonely guy. If my friends only called me when I first called them, we’d never talk. Friendships will result in pain because friends can say things to one another that no one else can say to them and sometimes that hurts. Friends go through life together no matter what the other person’s life season is doing at the time; that means that sometimes one friend can’t pay for the boat rental because things are tight, but friends share experiences together anyway. Sometimes that means a whole weekend is spent discussing one friend’s personal or marital struggles and it monopolizes the conversation, but friends share grief and pain together anyway. Sometimes that means a friend has to say something to another friend that makes them mad, but friends hold each other accountable anyway. I think Islam gets this one right when it says: “None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.”

I’m still a competitor, probably always will be – so I need scoreboard. I’ll keep checking the sales scoreboard to keep me working hard, and I’ll always look at my watch to try to make my next PR in a race. But I’m done keeping score in the rest of my life. I’m just going to stick to what Jesus said in Matthew: “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” 

Fear and Courage

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Fear: An emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous.

Courage: The ability to act in the face of fear.

A little over a year ago, my friend Brad and I decided to go mountain bike riding in Moab, Utah. For those of you unfamiliar with mountain bike culture, Moab is to mountain biking what Nashville is to country music. Neither Brad nor I are exactly mountain biking experts and when you put two 6 foot, 3 inch guys over the handlebars of a piece of aluminum screaming down a rocky trail we’ve never been on, fear will creep in to the picture. The photo above was taken AFTER we faced those fears and came out on the other side at the entrance of Arches National Park, unscathed and courageous.

I tell this story to illustrate a lesson that I’ve been visiting quite a bit lately – fear is not something to ignore, it is something to embrace. It has been amazing to me that as I have improved my level of self-awareness, I have become acutely aware of how much fear I have in my life…fear of failure when I go into a big business pitch, fear of a lack of approval from my boss for my job performance, fear that I am making parenting mistakes, fear that I’m not meeting all of my wife’s emotional needs, fear of being accepted by new friends for being who I am, fear of disappointing my true, long time friends because I’m not available enough for them, and the list goes on and on. For a while I was so ashamed of these fears thinking I was weak and lacked self confidence. 

The turning point for me was a realization that the fact that I can recognize these fears creeping in to my thoughts, gives me an amazing power. I now can recognize the fears for what they are – simple emotions, not good or bad, just feelings. I have now become the most courageous person I know because I recognize the fear is there and I ACT. I do not allow the thoughts of fear to linger for more than a moment, I attack them with a rigor that allows me to confidently sit across from a client and stay completely in the moment with them, I work every day in a way that I know will produce my best, I parent with love and grace and trust that it is enough, I do things that I know will make my wife feel good when I see them to be done, I talk to new friends in honesty and straightforwardness and let them decide where the relationship goes, and I try to touch my dearest friends in multiple ways through the power of technology on a regular basis.

My life isn’t always screaming down the side of a single track mountain bike trail, but my fears are real. I’m courageous because just like during that trail ride, I hold on tight, pay close attention, and only go as fast as is prudent.