Don’t ask me why, I can’t explain, but this morning I remembered a football match I was playing in about 17 years ago. It was while I was a professional footballer.* I used to play in goal for one of our church football teams (usually the 3rd 11), and this was often a very busy position. On the occasion that came to mind I was trying my best and was managing to get my fingertips to some of the shots but they were still going in the goal.

After about three goals where I had got my fingertips to the ball one of my teammates berated me for not saving the shots on the basis that if I could get my fingertips to the ball I should be deflecting the ball away from the goal. My response was that I thought I was doing well just about getting my fingertips to touch the ball. I don’t think he accepted my defence. If I had been smarter I should have said that perhaps he should be trying harder to stop the opposition from shooting in the first place!

But I was a little bit hurt by the idea that I was not doing well enough, and saddened that my teammate couldn’t see that I thought I was doing my very best. And, now I think about it, there have been other occasions when people have offered criticism (not always constructive) where I have felt hurt because they did not see that I had done my best – all they could see was that I had not achieved what they wanted me to achieve.

So who is right in those situations: if I was doing my best, surely that’s all that anyone could expect? Or should I have done better – fingertips was not enough? I think there is a third way – the way of encouragement: good effort – you got your fingers to the ball and almost saved it, keep trying. That approach recognises that there is room for improvement and also acknowledges that I was trying hard. It is the approach that invites further attempts and improvement, and lifts spirits rather than accepting that this is as good as it gets or being discouraging.

Which approach would you like people to take with you? So, taking Jesus’ advice, ‘treat others as you would have them treat you’.

Be blessed, be a blessing

*I was being paid to be Youth Minister at a church and part of my role was to engage with the lads in the church football team. Paid to play football = professional, doesn’t it? (Shame I didn’t play like a professional!)

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