Monday, January 22, 2007

Keeping score

I spent the day Saturday at my daughter’s volleyball tournament. Twenty-four teams of middle school girls in a gym, playing match after match, all day. It’s a long and grueling day, both for the players and their parents!

To keep things moving and to get cheap labor, in between games, resting players are required to serve as line judges and scorekeepers. Now, line judging is fairly straightforward (unless some cute 13-year-old guy walks by, and the adolescent judge is not paying attention to the lines…). It’s either out or in. Raise the flag or point to the floor.

But scorekeeping is complex. The scorekeepers constantly have to keep an eye on the referees to be sure who gets the point. There are things to write down. There are substitutions to log. There is math involved.

And then there’s that dreaded scoreboard.

Just for fun, if you ever want to see a group of parents come unglued, just let a 13-year-old accidentally press the wrong button and give the point to the wrong team. Oh. My. Gracious. You’d think it was the Superbowl or something. Some parents start yelling. Others start talking amongst themselves at how poor the officiating has been today. Some are on their feet, practically hissing.

The game stops, the referees go to the scoring table, calculator in hand, to review the tally sheet. Most of the time, the issue can be resolved.

Saturday, however, there was one disputed point in which the referee was the one who had obviously (to us) made a mistake. The wrong team received the point. Parents were on their feet. There was hissing. It got ugly. However, since there is no instant replay in Juniors volleyball, the point stood as it was. In the end, everyone grudgingly agreed that the referee wields the power to make the final call.

I was sorely tempted to look scornfully at those outraged parents: our team benefited from the referee’s oversight.

But there have been times when a ref made bad calls that cost our team the game. How did I respond then?

In family life, I can easily fall into a scorekeeping mentality. When things are going well, it is easy to respond positively:

  • You remembered to call to let me know you’d be late, so I’ll greet you at the door cheerfully. One point for you, one point for me.
  • You helped with the dishes, so I’ll respond to your romantic gestures. Check, check.

But what about when things aren’t going so well?

  • Yesterday, you didn’t take out the trash. Pull out that tally sheet. Hmm. Deduct two points. Today, I’m going to just keep piling it higher than ever. There, we’re even.
  • Last time we got into an argument, you hurt my feelings. Minus one for you. This time, I’m just not going to talk.

Although keeping score appears to be “fair,” in reality, no one wins.

In my experience, scorekeeping is one of the biggest relationship killers in a family.

It sets winning as the goal (with the underlying assumption that someone is going to lose). Self-preservation is key. It creates an atmosphere of hostility that sets one person’s agenda, values, possessions, and worth against another’s. It can put a wall between a husband and wife, or between a parent and child, faster than you can say, “I am going to make sure you get no more and no less than you deserve.”

The problem is that life is not fair.
Marriage is not fair.
Kids have absolutely no concept of fair.

The good news is, some day, we will come face to face with the ultimately fair Referee. He makes no mistakes. He will settle the disputes that caused so much turmoil. Whether it looks like it now or not, we can be sure that everyone will receive his just reward. He will make the final call.

Until that time, we are called, not to keep score, but to do something that requires no math skills. In fact, we need to throw out the calculator.

We are called to forgive - no matter what - and to leave the judging up to God.

Can I trust Him enough not to take scorekeeping into my own hands?

This week I’m thinking about:

  • What areas tempt me the most to keep score?
  • What are some ways I can commit to burning the tally sheet and throwing out the calculator?
  • How can I teach my children not to keep score?

Love…is not self-seeking… it keeps no record of wrongs.
1 Corinthians 13:5


Anonymous said...

I am so guilty of this, too. I realize I'm doing this and it is really not right. Thank you for sharing this and I will be praying to stop keeping score. Have a great week!

Beckyb said...

Wow - how do we teach our kids not to when we do it ourselves??? Great reminder - thanks for that.

Kristina at Learn2Luv2Run said...

what great thoughts! Thanks for the reminder.

Beck said...

Amazingly timely post - thank you!

Susanne said...

Oh not taking out the trash when I want is so totally at least 5 points. Just kidding.

This post is so powerful because it hits everyone of us. Especially when the world view that is constantly put before us is to look out for #1. But if I pause to think at all the times I myself could be "deducted" it opens up my eyes. Life is not about scorekeeping. It's about loving and with loving comes forgiving. Thanks Katherine for once again putting up a very timely post!

Qtpies7 said...

Very timely post! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Great post. Thanks so much.

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

Excellent, excellent post, Katherine. I love your questions at the end, too, and I know I'd benefit from putting aside some time to ponder them as well.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! I am SO guilty of keeping score - mostly when it has to do with who did what with the kids. How terrible!

Jen said...

Very well do we keep our kids from keeping score? Madison is only 9 and I know she does's a great reminder to watch our children and watch ourselves.

Kara said...

I am also guilty of this. Thanks for the reminder.

Chrystal said...

I concur with previous posters. VERY timely post. In fact, so timely, that I've got an "I'm sorry" on my lips - ready to deliver in the next few moments. Thanks for the reminder.

Kim said...

his is a great reminder,Katherine! I loved the analogy!


owlhaven said...

Great post, katherine!

I have told my kids so many times that life isn't fair. of course I need reminding myself just about as often!

Mary, mom to many

Deidre said...

Thanks for this post. I know I am guilty of this. I love the verse at the end.

Deborah Fantasia said...

That's great, especially about keeping score !

Sharon said...

Thank you so much for the reminder! I definitely needed to hear that.

Anonymous said...

I frequently lurk here and hadn't been around for a week so I'm just now catching up with this. Thank you for calling me on something I've done just today and has been weighing heavily on my conscience. God must have directed here today. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

thank you for this. my problem is determining whether i'm keeping score (as my husband presumes) or just remembering concrete examples of issues that need to be addressed?

i pray for wisdom AND understanding.