Lately, I’ve been thinking about the phrase, “returning to oneself,” or “returning to me.” I believe the impetus for this was listening to “Barking to the Choir” by Father Greg Boyle. He often writes about how gang members return him to himself.
This is what relationships are about, then, at least partly. Us returning to ourselves, remembering who we are in God as He originally intended and created us. We get into trouble and have conflict and dysfunction when we forget this. When we forget ourselves, and become, at least temporarily, less than we truly are.
We can get caught up in momentary distresses and disruptions in our lives. God lets it rain on the good and the evil, the book says, and we can expect to have troubles. When we allow these troubles to consume and overwhelm us, we run the risk of forgetting ourselves. (This is not to make light of or under-play real, present, and pervasive circumstances, chronic illnesses, etc)
The results of this are at best discomfiting and at worst disastrous. When we forget ourselves we get angry, depressed, and mournful. We fall out of relationship to one another and within ourselves.
During my first two years or so of coaching, I often forgot myself. I thought that if I could bend the athletes to my way of thinking, to my way of seeing the world, then we would be successful. This wasn’t about exerting a healthy influence, which we need to do when in positions of leadership. It was more about command and control, thinking that being somewhat domineering would win they day.
I think mostly I was afraid. Afraid of looking like I didn’t know what I was doing, masking it with control, anger, and sarcasm. Afraid that they would see me as a phony and an imposter. Afraid that if they didn’t know I was “IN CHARGE!!”, then all sorts of hell would break loose.
Foolishness, really. That’s not who God made me, or anyone else, to be. I think I even knew it at the time.
Now, I let the athletes in more. Give them some insights into what makes me tick, allow them to see around the corner to what really is. Let down my guard a bit more, to SEE me.
I might have more on-the-mat success if I acted like an asshole to my athletes. Or, if I kept a clinical distance from them, maybe we would win championship after championship. I still struggle with that a bit, wonder and evaluate if the path we are on leads to places that are good and right and true.
What I am certain of is that when I open the crack for them to see me–to really see me–they let me in, too. We bring one another back to ourselves. People who were designed to be loving and be loved, to live in solidarity and kinship.
And we can work on the important things in life as well as the game.