Saturday afternoon, we packed the family up and went to the local YMCA to watch Sloan play basketball. Who knew that while watching a group of 5-year-olds trip over a bright orange ball, I would end up blinking back tears and, ultimately, lose a night’s sleep.
Sloan is a great little athlete. So far, two of our three kids have shown the propensity to have their daddy’s graces when it comes to athletics and I’m very glad. But, Sloan is not an overly competitive or aggressive kid. He’s out there to have fun and to look good. He’s not there to win. I know that this is a good trait to have and I truly am glad that he’s got such a great attitude when he plays sports. Lee and I also think that he will be more geared toward individual sports like golf and, perhaps, baseball. I like to think of this as one battle we won’t have to fight with Sloan. I also trust that as he gets older, he’ll develop more of a drive for victory, though I don’t know that he’ll ever be super competitive.
Now Tia, on the other hand, is a different story. She hates to lose and she is highly competitive. But I digress.
I noticed for the first time on Saturday, that Sloan did seem a little bothered by the fact that he didn’t get more chances to shoot. But he just doesn’t really go after the ball. That competitive nature is just not in him. And as we watched him play, I felt this lump of fear knot in my stomach.
My senior year of high school was a rough time for me. I was dealing with a specific struggle that was linked directly to my lack of self-esteem and it grew into a large enough problem that I required counseling. I remember very specifically one of my counselling sessions breaking down in tears and telling my counselor, “I just don’t feel like I’m good at anything. No matter what I do, someone is always better than I am. I feel like a plain Jane.”
Now that I am older and have had some time to mature and assess some of those feelings, I see so much more clearly what was going on. The problem was not that I wasn’t good at anything, but that I wasn’t recognized for the things that I was good at. Of course I had the support and encouragement from my parents, but I longed for the acceptance from my peers and other leaders and teachers within my sphere of influence. Despite the fact that I was indeed gifted in some areas, it seemed that I was often overlooked and passed by and I struggled with that. I want to be delicate as I write this. It isn’t that I never received encouragement from anyone. I know that I was loved and encouraged. But I had that perception back then, as my flesh warred against my spirit. I longed to be great and was discontent at constantly coming up average.
Before you think of me as some narcissistic little brat who needed all the glory, you should also know that there are some events that occurred in my life that served to create this need for recognition. I’ll keep it vague because I don’t like to discuss private family matters on my blog, but in short, when I was thirteen, our family took custody of three of my cousins who had experienced a good deal of emotional trauma.
The year that they lived with us was difficult on everyone involved and I think we were all left with a few emotional scars as a result. Because of the needs of my cousins, my own emotional needs were often overlooked-not because people didn’t care, but simply because they didn’t know. I developed this yearning to be seen. I longed to be told that I was great at something and all of that truly took root in that one pivotal year of my life. That’s the best I can do to explain how this deep-seeded emotional need for recognition came about.
When I went to college, for the first time, I felt like I was noticed. I started to receive encouragement from people outside my own family for the gifts that I had been given and I blossomed. I developed self-esteem that I never knew I was capable of. I also, oddly enough, developed a sense of humility that I hadn’t known before. Those were good years for me.
Now that I’m grown, I know the Truth behind why I’ve been given gifts and what I am to expect from them. I realize now that it’s not about me. It’s not about whether or not I get recognition for the things I’m good at. It’s all about Who gets the glory and, ultimately, I believe that the Lord deserves the glory for anything I do. I no longer have this unquenchable desire for recognition. In fact, I don’t much care anymore. I just want to glorify Him and pray that I do that whether I am writing, singing, or just playing with my kids.
But, as I watched Sloan holding his hands out and yelling, “I’m open, I’m open,” and I heard the coach constantly yelling, “Give the ball to Sloan, he’s open,” and watched as time and time again the ball was passed to another kid, all of those feelings rushed back and I began to fear once again. Only this time the fear was compounded because it was for my son. I do not want him to experience those feelings of being overlooked and passed by. The one time he did receive the ball, he shot and missed and my heart broke.
And he’s only five. Good grief. I’m not sure I’ll survive this motherhood thing.
Anyway, I spent much of Saturday night tossing and turning and praying that the Lord release me of that fear. And I feel like I’ve made a little headway. The fact that I’m getting emotional as I type this post shows I have a little ways to go, but I’m trusting the Lord to rebandage the wound that seems to have split ever so slightly.
First of all, I know that Sloan is young and that he will undoubtably experience the pain of rejection growing up and that he will be okay. I also know that it’s okay if he’s not a competitive person. He will find his niche and Lee and I will do the best we can to nurture the gifts that he has. Mostly, I pray that I will be an example to Sloan that it’s not about who wins or loses – it’s about who gets the glory in the end.
After all, that’s the Truth I want my son to learn earlier than I did.