I was playing hockey earlier this week in a recreational no-checking league and witnessed a player on the other team tackle one of the players on my team and try to beat the snot out of him. Considering the player on my team was wearing a full cage and refs were quick to break it up, he was fairly unsuccessful in his attempts, but observing this situation got me thinking. Why did an opposing player tackle one of my friends?
To give you a little background on this situation, I play in a recreational hockey league and the team I was playing on is in the lowest skill-level league. None of the guys on the ice have formal hockey training. We don’t get paid to play; we actually pay a lot of money to play. And everyone has to get up the next day and go to work. There’s no explanation good enough to excuse this type of behavior.
But observing this situation got me wondering if there’s something else going on in his life of which I’m completely unaware. Could he have come into the game already on edge and then something happened during the game to push him over the edge?
How Do We Respond?
Have you ever experienced a situation like this? Maybe you were driving and some random person you’ve never met had intense road rage for no apparent reason. Maybe you walked into a meeting with your boss and got chewed out for an insignificant mistake. Maybe you came home from work one day and your spouse gave you an earful about something you said a month ago.
When we encounter these situations, we often respond by getting defensive and things erupt quickly. What if, instead, we acknowledge that these people are going through something really challenging in their lives, something which has absolutely nothing to do with us? Maybe their marriage is on the rocks. Maybe they’re on the brink of getting fired. Maybe they’re struggling to make their house payments. Maybe one of their children is constantly in the hospital and the doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong. Maybe a close friend or family member is battling cancer. We just don’t know their situation.
How Did Jesus Respond?
As Jesus was going from town to town during his earthly ministry, crowds and crowds of people would travel to come see him. When Jesus looked at the crowds, he didn’t see a bunch of needy, self-centered sinners; he saw groups of people who were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd. He didn’t get upset with them; he had compassion on them.
Is that the way we look at people? Do we look beyond their façades which portray that everything is great to see what’s really going on in their lives? That’s my challenge to you. The next time someone goes off on you, instead of responding by fighting back, consider the challenges that person is facing in his life. Strive to demonstrate the same type of compassion towards him as Jesus. You never know, he may open up to you about what’s going on and you may have the opportunity to walk alongside him as he works through it.
A Brief Clarification
As a clarification, I am not suggesting we excuse peoples’ behaviors simply because they have something going on in their lives. We all have something going on in our lives. As I’ve shared in previous articles, I believe the reason we lash out at other people is because of the condition of our hearts. I believe we have evil hearts which desperately need to be transformed into the image of Jesus. Jesus knew this when he saw all those people, yet he had compassion on them. But he also didn’t excuse them or withhold the consequences of their actions.
A Success Story
I play hockey with a guy who plays very aggressively. In a checking league, his aggression would be normal. But in a no-checking league, it’s over the top. My first few encounters with him were not very pleasant. One game, he cross-checked me in the chest and I went flying. In another game, he cross-checked me in the head and sent my GoPro flying. On another occasion, he checked me in the back and pinned me up against the boards. I didn’t like this guy at all.
After explaining my dislike for this guy to my dad, he encouraged me to get to know him. I wanted nothing to do with it. But one day, I was sitting next to him in the locker room and decided to strike up a conversation with him. I found out he grew up playing hockey, played minor league hockey for ten years, and is now a pastor. At that point, I started putting some of the pieces together. He’s aggressive because that’s the way he was trained to play in a checking league. But I can tell that he really does care about other people which is why he’s a pastor. He and I are now friends and he and I now play together on a team. He’s one of the most encouraging guys I’ve ever met, has an immense love for God, other people, and the game of hockey. And now he is rarely too aggressive with me when we’re on opposing teams.