Last Monday I played basketball with some of my buddies at Harbor Square Athletic Club in Edmonds. Most of these are guys between the ages of 35 and 55. The fellow I was guarding is about 6' 6" and in his early 40s. He played in college and is quicker and faster than me. He was eating my lunch, and after losing two games in a row, my teammate, Tim the School Teacher, approached me and asked, "Do you think you should switch and guard him?" He pointed to an older fellow who is also a big guy, but much closer to my age and skill level. It felt like a personal affront. I said, "So, you are saying I'm too old and slow to guard him?" He laughed, then smiled and said, "No. Just a thought." I knew what he was saying. (My wife has used the Socratic Method of questioning for years.) He was saying, "This might help us. It would be nice to win a few games." I agreed with him. We put a younger guy on the man I was guarding and won three games in a row! I thanked Tim the School Teacher afterward and said, "I'd rather WIN than be right! In fact, I'd rather be happy than right."
When I am more concerned about doing what is right, as opposed to being right, it changes the way I feel. It has taken me years to come to this simple realization. Having said that, pride and ego rear their ugly heads to remind me the war inside rages on.
How about you?
The hardest work we will ever do is on the inside. For every man and woman, the war rages on internally between good and evil. Between just and unjust. Between ethical and unethical. Between fair and unfair. Between pride and humility. Between fear and faith. Between hate and love. Between resentment and forgiveness.
I find myself at this age and stage in my life where relationships and what I like to call "BEING Goals" take center stage. I'm less concerned with "Stuff"-material gain-and more concerned with "Human-Becoming" objectives. In other words, Peace of Mind is the name of the game. One friend of mine said, "I want to be the kind of guy my dog thinks I am." There it is!
Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by HOPE. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by FAITH. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by LOVE. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of a friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love, which is FORGIVENESS.
-Reinhold Niebuhr, theologian, professor, 1892-1971
To Professor Niebuhr's points, Hope, Faith, Love and Forgiveness are the four cornerstones of my foundation for a building that will last long after I do. Consider each of these "BEING Goals" for a moment:
- Hope. Jim Rohn said, "Hope long delayed makes the heart sick." Hopeless? To be hope-less is to have given up. It means we have become cynical, negative, pessimistic, and consumed by self-pity. Today I choose to be an optimist. I believe the best is yet to come. Optimistic people generally feel that good things will last a long time and will have a beneficial effect on everything they do. They also think bad things are isolated, temporary, and won't affect other parts of life.
- Faith. Martin Luther King once said, "Faith is taking the first step when you don't see the whole staircase." It's a kind of knowing and a trust that things will work out in the end. It's believing in God and in yourself even when you can't see the end result now. It's the opposite of fear. It's a philosophy and a decision. In the end, Faith is a choice.
- Love. What is love? Like the other three, it's a positive emotion, but it's much more than that. It's putting others first. It's being "Other-Centered" versus "Self-Centered." It's doing things you might not want to do, but knowing selfless actions that demonstrate caring about others will produce positive results. If you want to be loved, love someone. If you want to be understood, seek to understand. It's giving away what you want most to have yourself.
- Forgiveness. It's the opposite of resentment. It's a kind of letting go. It's the high road in life. I must forgive myself first and others second. Life is too short to Be-Little. It doesn't change the other person; it changes me. Mark Twain said, "Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that crushed it." Forgiveness is the final form of love.
Martin Seligman, a pioneer in "Learned Optimism" says this:
"Positive thinking is the notion that if you think good thoughts, things will work out well. Optimism is the feeling of thinking things will be well and be hopeful. If you were an optimistic teen, then you'll be an optimist at 80. People's reactions to bad events are highly stable over a half century or more."
Basketball taught me a great many things about life. It's a wonderful metaphor. I learned how to set and achieve goals, show up early, stay late, go the extra mile, share the basketball and credit, be part of a team, change my attitude, and bounce back from setbacks. The list goes on. When I was a teenager attending Bob Houbregs' basketball camp, I was exposed to many positive, successful, ambitious, and smart men who eventually shaped my future. It's where I became a teacher and a student. I played in high school and college, I coached my boys for 15 years, and now I am playing again. It's my second adolescence. This time around I am much more teachable. And yes, I'd rather be happy than right!
I guess I'll guard the old guy...again.