“We don’t have to agree on anything to be kind to one another.” (Toby Mac)
One day while I was a high school student, a bunch of us were playing pickup basketball at a nearby gym. I was playing well and doing my fair share of trash talking that day. Finally, my friend had enough of this as some of my verbal barrage was directed at him.
He told us that he didn’t want to play any more and that we all had to leave. You see, he was the one that had the key to the gym and had opened it up for us to play. He literally took his ball and went home. He didn’t have very thick skin and didn’t react to the situation very well. I, on the other hand, was not very respectful as I acted like a punk.
Most of the time, showing respect to people (even those that you don’t think deserve it) is more a reflection of your character than it is a reflection of theirs.
It seems that there are two types of people in this world today. Those that say harsh things about others – who disrespect others. And those who don’t react well to the situations around them and play the victim card. What we need is more kindness, more positivity, more perspective, more thick skin, and more wisdom.
Our society’s use of social media is a related topic for another day, but how does responding to someone you disagree with by lowering yourself to name-calling, vulgarities, ill-will, threats, or mean-spirited comments prove that you are the better person. It seems that you have just told the whole world who you are.
Your response to someone’s actions says as much about us as it does them.
Sportsmanship is a phrase or word that is frequently emphasized in sports. It is a way of building character. It is a method by which we show respect for others. It oftentimes reveals character. However, there have been some recent events with sports teams that is inconsistent with the sportsmanship or respect theme.
Sports build character. A strong character is needed to overcome challenges and adversity that is sure to come in your life. A strong character is needed to build off successes and help add value to others. Sportsmanship – or more to the point, respect – is paramount to our character development process.
For many years, championship teams in college and at the professional ranks have accepted invitations to the White House to be honored and recognized for their great accomplishments. Recently a number of teams have missed out on the opportunity for this amazing experience.
In some of these cases (most notably the Golden State Warriors), it has reminded me of my friend who took his ball and went home. Both my friend and I did things to escalate the situation and make it worse. More to the point, we were both guilty of failing to make the situation better.
I understand some of these teams believe that they are sending a message and that this a platform afforded to them. However, though they might be communicating something about the White House or the person that occupies that office, they are also communicating just as much about themselves.
Look at it from a different view point. What if the Golden State Warriors essentially said,
“We don’t all agree with everything that our President has done or said, but we respect the office of the President. We respect our nation and democracy. We also understand that other teams and players before us have gone to the White House even though that administration didn’t align with their views. In fact, Coach Kerr previously did that when he was a player. This is a great experience and we will not let our personal feelings get in the way of a great opportunity that we have. We request that while we are there that the President or some of his closest advisors would take some time to meet with us and discuss some of our concerns. We believe that being a World Champion carries a great responsibility. We want to have civil discourse and respectfully discuss some of the issues that are prevalent today. We look forward to attending the White House ceremony and representing our fans and the nation as we demonstrate and model respect.”
If Golden State did something like that, they would probably come off as the good guy. They could probably affect more change by being in the room and having the ear of the President than by taking their ball and going home. When my friend did that at the gym, the story became him stopping the game and ruining it for everyone else. I was absolutely in the wrong but the story became him. If he had talked to me at a water break or just ignored me then the situation might have been resolved or resolved itself.
How about the President? What could he have done? He could have said something like,
“I understand that some of the Warriors players and staff disagree with things that I have done or said. I am fortunate to be the President of the greatest country in the world where citizens have the right and the freedom to criticize their leader without fear of retaliation. Some individuals within the Golden State organization have expressed hesitancy about accepting our invitation. This is understandable. They have accomplishment magnificent things as a team and I hope that they decide to come to the ceremony and represent not only their fans but the entire NBA fan base. While they are at the White House, we would like to sit down with them and hear about some of the issues that they feel most strongly about. One of the reasons that I was elected was because this country viewed me as “the people’s president”. I want to listen and respectfully consider what the people have to say, not just those who agree with me. This whole situation is a testament to why there is no better country to live in. I would count it a privilege if the Golden State Warriors would join me as we honor them and then have a productive conversation.”
These two statements may never be uttered but why not? Why can’t we take the positive approach. Why can’t we be wise? We always have the opportunity to be the bigger person. To be the level-headed person. We can always demonstrate wisdom and maturity. We can model respect.
In fact, we do this all the time in sports. We shake officials hands even though we don’t like them. We shake opposing players or coaches hands even though they are trying to beat us. We go to restaurants or watch movies of people that we disagree with politically or socially. We play on sports teams with people that are different than us.
We will not always be in a situation that suits us. We will not always be surrounded by like-minded people. But we are always in a position to reveal our character.
We constantly hear about how our society is that or that. We can sometimes get negative and feel that there is no hope. But Gandhi said, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” If you are mad that someone isn’t respectful of you, then kill them with kindness. Show them what it means to be respectful. You will not change their mind by making them mad or acting mean-spirited. Very little change happens because we take our ball and go home. After my friend kicked us out of the gym and took his ball home, we just found a new place to play an hour later.
You want things to change, then give them a reason to listen to you. People will listen to those that they know, like, and trust. You want to have influence to change the world? Then treat everyone with kindness and respect, even those who are rude to you – not because they are nice, but because you are!