So yesterday was another Freaky Friday experience at the baseball field (although, thankfully, I did not hit a rabbit on the way home and experience subsequent car troubles).
This exchange in team caliber occurred as a direct result of a lightning and rain storm, a very magical and rare phenomena in these parts as of late. When it hit, our team, the visitors, were ahead 7-2, in the bottom of the second inning. We had won the previous time we played this team, and it looked, mercifully, like another win would end our current losing streak.
By the time the weather cleared and lingering red mud puddles merely reminded us that it had happened, the transformation was complete. Suffice it to say, the game ended by a mercy rule–in the sixth inning (which we entered 9-7 and left 9-19). We lost. (I could mention that our starting pitcher got the first two outs in the sixth inning before being relieved, and the parade of four relievers never did get the last out.)
One fan, mercifully, wasn’t feeling well and thus wasn’t at the game and so I gave him requested game details via text messages as I kept the scorebook. He was frustrated both by not being able to be there but also by the reports of the game, and, occasionally, he sent a text that wasn’t merciful.
“Be nice,” I texted after one of them.
“Isn’t it better to be honest?” he responded.
My daughter, who was sitting beside me to support her baby brother, was fielding my texts so I could keep score. After she relayed the text to me, she responded to me, “I don’t think so. Not always.”
Later she related to me an incident in which she had gotten angry at her husband of two months and almost given him an earful of honesty. Instead, she had journaled her feelings; later she was able to share honestly with her husband.
“But,” she said, “that was when my honesty would benefit him. If I had been honest at first, it would not have been for him, it would have been for me.”
Wow. Honesty with mercy.
The next morning, while my beloved varsity baseball player lay sleeping, my husband and I rehashed the details of the game.
It went something like this:
“Whine, whine, whine.”
“Complain, complain, complain.”
(But a little longer.)
After we exhausted the topic of baseball, we moved on to our children, politics, and the economy, which meant more whining and complaining.
By the end of two cups of coffee, I felt drained, defeated, and depressed.
And then I thought of what my daughter had said. While we were being honest, it was for us, not to benefit the subject of our honesty. We weren’t extending mercy; our honesty wasn’t accomplishing anything of value. It was tearing others down (though they didn’t know it, unless they now read this blog post…Hello? Are you there?)–and ourselves in the process.
I went into the kitchen and put on some praise music while I cooked breakfast, and I began to feel much better.
I recalled Philippians 4:8–“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things”–and Ephesians 4:29–“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
And I felt convicted. While my words and thoughts were honest (or at least honestly mine), they weren’t necessarily right or pure or lovely or admirable. They might not have been unwholesome, but they weren’t building others up, and they weren’t benefiting anyone, not even me.
Just as our ballplayers needed mercy to get out of that game, I need mercy–to extend to myself and others. Rather than “just being honest,” I need to dwell on what is excellent or praiseworthy, verbalizing my “honesty” only through the filter of “what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.”
(Although, I am hoping for another magical storm to return our players back to their usual, competent, competitive selves…)
Just being honest!