A very brief one tonight.  Nothing on the Superbowl.  Except this:


Okay, only that one thing on the Superbowl.  And this:

That was the gutsiest call I’ve ever seen in a Superbowl.

Nothing else.

Today, I got feedback.  Sometimes feedback is the best.  I try to affirm people because I believe words have power.  Motivation through criticism over the long haul bears bad fruit (just as guilt and shame do, in the long term), and as a coach, a mentor, a teacher, a preacher, and as a dad, I’m interested in lifetime impact, not short-term results.  I have moments when I lose sight of this, but I try to carry this view front and center in all my roles.

Today, the mom of a great athlete gave me feedback on my coaching.  I could have cried.  First, her child told her everything I said, exactly what I said.  That means the words sank in.  That means it’s working.

Second, this young person accurately grasped and repeated that I was affirming something I saw in the person’s character, not merely athletic ability.  Athletic ability is nice.  It’s a gift.  It’s fun and a little like being good-looking (I’ve heard): you can be all proud of it if you want, but you didn’t do it for yourself nor do anything to earn it.  You just won that cosmic lottery.  Maybe.*

Character, on the other hand, is the long term fruit.  Character matters.  “Character and competency,” as my friend Erik likes to say.  When I get to see a kid’s character coming out on the field or the court, that’s huge.  That matters more than throws and catches or shots and steals.  I still believe sports can build strong, godly character.  I’ve seen it happen.  I’m seeing it happen.

So that’s what I got to recognize and affirm: character growth, the kind I know will transfer over into other areas of life.

Here’s what I also got in the deal: I learned this great athlete is very sensitive to criticism.  I had no idea.  I didn’t find out because I’d screwed up (for once! Yay!), but because I did it right, congruent with my own values, and through our conversation, the mom let me know this and how much her athlete appreciates my positive approach.

I also don’t like criticism.  Yes, I know, sometimes it’s necessary, and if you can’t take criticism, etc, etc.  I’ve heard.  I also know that I hear one criticism louder than 5 10 a bunch of affirmations.  Bummer, I know, but that’s my stuff and I live with it.  I didn’t know this young person felt the same way.*  I’m not that insightful…or maybe my intuition actually works.  Possibly.

Here’s my conclusion: in retrospect, I’m going to say the moment when I thought, “I should make a point of going over and looking that kid in the eye and saying this” was a nudge from God.  It didn’t feel like divine intervention, just one of those impulses that I acted on because it seemed like a good idea at the time.  Maybe those are the same thing.

But I will tell you this: that nudge will be easier to act on next time because of the feedback.

Maybe that’s exactly how faith works.


*How you choose to develop your athletic ability–or not–and how you use it, these are very much character questions.

**You’re going to ask, “Isn’t everyone sensitive to criticism.”  No. Not in the same way.  Some people are very thick-skinned.  Some people simply don’t care what you think.  And some people will pay no attention to affirmation at all and will only listen to critique.  It’s a weird world.

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