Little League sports are full of drama and intrigue, and the environment is ripe for crazy parental behavior that seems more fitting for a Real Housewives episode.
There’s also lots of ego. (Definitely, lots.)
As the proud mother of a 9 year old baller, I bring my Baseball Mom pride to the field in true competitive fashion. I nit-pick and analyze plays like a schooled ESPN-like commentator; and I keep mental stats of all the highlights and errors.
I used to marvel at Those Parents who took their kids’ sports so seriously. I assumed they were wannabe athletes, who lived vicariously through their junior ballplayer. You know, Those People should really get a life and all.
Then I became one of them. And I’ve recently discovered that youth sports is the perfect setting for me to work on my own character. Because for the first time in my life, I’ve come to understand that my own selfish ambition, envy, and insecurity drives this cutthroat, competitive instinct.
“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and tell lies against the truth. Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is disorder and every evil practice.” James 3:14-16
Selfish ambition, jealousy, and bragging are all insecurity issues born from sinful hearts. And unfortunately, Little League has a way of bringing these issues to the surface.
Selfish ambition: Left on its own, my heart is on a constant search for significance. My fiery pride and sense of self-importance are inflated when my son’s performance is praised. And my ego is threatened when someone else gets ahead.
Jealousy: Can you truly say that you’ve never (even just a little bit) been envious of the mad skills that one kid has? Has jealousy ever caused you to resent that kid’s parents? (Because they’re a little obnoxious now that their child is so awesome?)
It’s so uncool to be jealous. It’s even more uncool to flat out admit it, right? Which is why I’m doing just that. Because envy will rot your bones, and we need to come to grips with our issues so we can get over them.
Bragging: I’m not one to outright brag. But if your bragging starts to knock holes in my insecurities, then I get all competitive, and I make it my mission to out-brag you. Because, hello, my pride is at stake.
Here’s the deal, there’s part of me that wants my kid to be awesome for his own sake. But there’s also part of me that wants my kid to be awesome because somehow, that means I’m awesome.
If your kid and my kid are neck and neck regarding their skill level, then I secretly have this passionate desire to beat you. I might even cheer inside my head when your kid lets the ball roll between his legs, because that means he’s not as Major League as you claim.
Which is why I feel pressure for my son to be great during every game. Which is why I might resent you a little bit sometimes. Which is why I need to get a hold of this issue, because it’s all quite foolish.
The good news is, I don’t have to stay this way, and neither do you.
According to James 3:14, our selfish ambition is home for all kinds of disorder. We are basically so full of ourselves that it’s making us sick. (Ouch!)
Competition is not bad in and of itself. But we need to check our hearts before we head to the ballpark. Because we parents tend to make it about us. Do we really want to teach our children that their value is wrapped up in their ability to throw strikes and make double plays?
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and not hypocritical.” James 3:17
The Greek word translated here as “accommodating” holds the concept of yielding.
yield: (verb), to give way to [an outside influence], to give place or precedence to someone or something.*
The solution to our competitive angst is to YIELD.
Which doesn’t make any sense of course, because the wisdom of the world tells us to clamor and claw and fight for a high position. Our narcissistic culture encourages us to climb the ladder of success and give no regard for who we step on to get there.
Even if it’s a 9 year old boy.
But if we live true to who we claim to be as believers, then our lives will run in the opposite direction of society’s cry from the bleachers. We will be the ones who yield at the intersection of ego and pride. Instead of pushing
our kids ourselves forward, we’ll stop, hold out our right hand, and say, “After you, friend…”
To yield up our selfish ambition, we must lay our egos aside.
When we trust that God takes care of our significance in a way that worldly applause just can’t touch, we can confidently yield to our neighbor (who, contrary to popular belief, is not our opponent) without fear that we shortcut ourselves.
You and I will never find our significance through self promotion. So let’s be different. Let’s determine to fight our own insecurities to the ground, so that we don’t fight with each other out of deluded pride. (We might even just benefit from lower blood pressure, too.)
Are you game?
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