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Leave no doubt

What if we forget? What if we don’t get around to it? What if we’re afraid?…to tell them…until it’s too late.

I live among the self-sufficient. Everybody’s “got this.” “I’m good,” they say. They don’t need my help, don’t entertain my suggestion, don’t want my advice. In fact, accepting help taints their ‘I can do this myself’ capacity, the capability we pride ourselves with here in America, land of the free, home of the brave. Independence is where we stake our claim.

So, if I want them to know that there may be another approach or a new way, I am told I should ‘lead by example.’ That is acceptable, inoffensive and safe. If they notice, good. If not, well I’ve shown them. It’s not my job to turn them around.

But what if what I do is “not do”? That is, what if I choose to withhold my words or resist action? This really leaves the door open to all sorts of supposition. People may surmise, “Oh, she’s such a wimp.” Or, “She lets them get away with everything.” Or even accuse, “Why doesn’t she come to their defense?”

Here, I credit the Positive Coaching Alliance who suggests that we be sure to ‘tell them why you did what you did.’ This is especially true when our actions are silent. Speaking dispels misunderstanding. We don’t do it to tout what we did or draw attention to ourselves, but rather to be clear. And, to open the door for conversation and discussion. Why? What were you thinking? How did you decide this? What will you do now? Would you do that again? All valid questions. All essential so they can consider it for themselves. What would they have done if they were in my shoes?

And if, as has happened all too often, my actions were not what I wish to have conveyed, now I have  a forum to talk about that, too. “I shouldn’t have said that and next time I will do this…”

So many of us, though, shy away from this conversation. We want to let our actions speak so we don’t have. We like to quote the old standard of St. Francis “Preach the gospel at all times, and when absolutely necessary, use words.” Certainly yes. We don’t want to invade someone with overbearing expressions. Too many have used fear and force to do this. We would do well to be gentler, but we are challenged to go and tell.

Is it cowardly just to witness with my ways and let them draw their own conclusions? Am I hiding in plain sight, choosing to keep quiet about my faith lest someone might catch me doing something unChristian and call me out? Are we people who hide behind our good deeds and figure that’s good enough for God? Or are we meant to risk letting the Jesus show so that when we explain the why behind what we did or the why not behind what we didn’t, we testify to the truth.

I just love people who get creative about it. In fact, I am grateful because they give me ammunition and impetus to challenge myself to speak faith in a way that those who might not yet know the Lord will be tempted to consider Him. Now here’s someone who speaks it in style. 370Z style.

What message are we leaving behind?

How about this guy? He drives around with the message on his plate. I posted it to my Facebook page. Why not? Easter is coming. A harmless question … for the win. But I had better “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks (me) to give the reason for the hope that (I) have.” (1 Peter 3:15) I have found that the right word is rarely as important as the timely word.

Plan to Catch them Being Good

Catch them being good. That’s the name of a terrific book by Tony DiCicco who coached the 1999 World Cup winning women’s soccer team. You remember it, don’t you? When Brandi Chastain fired the game winning penalty kick past the Chinese goal keeper? 5-4 USA! Then Brandi stripped off her jersey in exultation, displaying her ripped torso adorned only in a sports bra. Oh my. Should women be allowed to do that?

No, don’t answer that. It’s no snarking week. We are banished from things spoken from a critical spirit. (Though, as Carol told me at the picnic yesterday, no one can criticize the blog post this week. Whew!)

Better stick with catch them being good. Tom’s challenge in the sermon yesterday to ‘corner the criticism’ and his example of the wagging tongues on the soccer sidelines made me think of a practice developed by the Positive Coaching Alliance that we employed the years I coached a travel soccer team. It’s called, “positive charting.”

It’s a simple thing. You make up a sheet with the names of all the kids on the team with a few empty lines after each name. Then stick the sheet on a clipboard with a pen (or copy and clip several) and hand it to one (or more) of your parents with the instructions: “For each kid, write down good things you see them do.” ‘Good things’ was broadly defined. It could be soccer skills, sportsmanship, coachability, kindness. It just has to be good.

Then, a funny thing happens. When parents start looking for the good they see on the field, they overlook the not-so-good. Especially in their own kids. They are furiously writing,  capturing stuff I missed or never would have noted as a coach. Truthfully, I knew this would be positive for the kids; I didn’t realize how positive it would be for the parents (and the coaches).

After the game, I would thank the parent(s) – usually several – who captured the good things and stick the clipboard in my bag. Next practice, the girls warmed up and then sprinted to the team huddle where they sat and looked at me expectantly. That was when I read out “the good things.” You should have seen how those faces glowed. They knew their name would be called and praise would be offered. For kids who are subjected to evaluation all the day long, counting on complements was a bit of a welcome respite, I guess.

Now, full disclosure: had I not adopted the PCA’s postive charting I never would have had these moments. And neither would my players.

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