Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Imagine being a relief pitcher for a major league sports team. You come into the game in the seventh inning after the starting pitcher has pitched 7 2/3 innings. You have a three run lead. You just don't have it this day. You have trouble finding the strike zone and when you do it's because your curve ball isn't curving. By the time you get that final out your team is down two runs. As you walk into the dugout you hear it from the crowd, "HEY BARNSMITH!!!! YOU S#@K!!!" After the game, your manager faces the heat from the press because he brought you into the game when the starter was still pitching well. The general manager is taking grief because he gave you a big contract that you have not been living up to. That is life in professional sports though isn't it? Your performance is judged instantly by thousands. If you throw strikes you get applause. If you get hit around you hear the boos.

Whether or not a person deserves to be boo'd is up for debate. Obviously, no one deserves to be cursed out but does the fan, who paid good money for a ticket, deserve the right to jibe a player or coach whose performance is sub-par?? It certainly probably isn't the Christian thing to do per say. For the player, coach or general manager, they are expected to take it. But they should take this "rough" criticism and use it. The player who is in a slump might hear those taunts and be motivated to take extra batting practice or review video tapes to figure out where he is going wrong. The coach who is being roasted by the press may look at his coaching style and see if he is doing something that is costing his team wins. The general manager though, he is the one who can get the most out of looking at his team honestly. How can we improve?? Can we make a trade? Should so and so be sent down? Is it time to cut so-and-so?"

Likewise, we also can improve our performance by taking a look at ourselves. A simple way of doing this is by doing a simple examination of conscience every night before we go to bed. We can take a few minutes to replay the day and see where we may have sinned, "I got angry at my kids. I gossiped about a co-worker. I let my eyes linger on that attractive blonde for too long. I thought bad thoughts about my jerk of a boss." When we do this, we are able to see our shortcomings and improve on them the next day. It will help us when we go to confession. We will know where we slip up. We will know what to confess and ask forgiveness for.

The examination of conscience doesn't need to focus solely on the negative things. We can think about the good things we did that day. "I gave that homeless guy the rest of my sandwich. I asked for the Virgin Mary's help when I started to have impure thoughts about that attractive blonde and it diverted my attention. I hugged my kids." By focusing on what we are doing right as well as what we do wrong we will realize better what we need to do in order to succeed. Just like a pitcher may review his video tapes and realize that when he pitches with a certain arm angle his curve ball curves but when it's at another the path of the ball stays flat and ends up in the fountains in the outfield.

Just as those in professional sports can take criticism and use it to better themselves, we can be critical of ourselves in order to get ahead in the spiritual life. That doesn't mean we need to stand in front of a mirror yelling, "Darn it Judy! You are worthless!! Go back to Omaha!!" We are better than that. God loves you and is full of mercy. He wants you to improve but he isn't going to say any "momma" jokes at your expense.

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