Many of you may recall a story I wrote a while ago called Tuxedo Swimming for Heartwarmers.com -- a humorous story about my experience taking my son swimming at the local YMCA.
I was overwhelmed with emails from those who had read it. I was quite humbled by what everyone wrote as I went through about a hundred emails that day, and all of them were very encouraging.
But then, just before I went to work that night I read one from a lady who was not very happy with me. She said: "I just read your piece in Heartwarmers. My first and only thought was: Why did you ask your wife to call the YMCA? You have enough time to write this story, but you can't be bothered to make a simple phone call yourself? Men like you who treat their "lovely wives" like secretaries make me angry. It's clear you are really full of yourself."
I went from flying with the eagles on top of the mountain, to plummeting at breakneck speed to the bottom of the mud and slime-filled swamp.
Literally a hundred positive emails were wiped out by one negative one. As I was taking my 40 minute drive to work that night I had a lot of time to think about it. My head kept telling me that this person didn't know me, and that if she did, she wouldn't feel this way... But my heart felt like it had been cut by a knife. Her words hurt me, and the harder I
tried to think only of the positive ones, my mind was pulled like a a piece of metal to a huge magnet, back to what she wrote...
What is it about our nature that makes us dwell so much more on negative things than on positive ones? I had enough positive feedback to last me for a year, but I continually beat myself with thoughts of her note. It brought my attention to the old saying, "It takes twenty positive comments to make up for just one negative comment."
It took me a day or so before I was able to get it out of my mind. My first thought was to email her back and tell her that I had my wife type it up as I did not have the time to respond to her. But I decided not to.
After a few days I did write her back, explaining that I work third shift, that the YMCA is open only after I go to sleep for the day, that I love and respect my wife and am very appreciative of all she does for me in raising our kids and helping me do so many things for my video business, etc.
However, I also thanked her for her openness and honesty, and for taking the time to respond to me. I believe one should always look for a grain of truth in every criticism, and it brought my attention to all the overlooked things that my wife does for me.
It also made me more aware of my words and how they can hurt people. As a husband, father, coach, and human being, I know how powerful my words are to my wife, kids, players, and those I come into contact with every day. For example, my coaching philosophy is based on getting a player to play hard because they want to, and because they respect and love me. Not because I am yelling and screaming at them for what they do wrong. If I have to correct a player I try and sandwich anything of a corrective nature with two positive things they do well.
For example: "Jamie, you are an awesome point guard and I am so thankful for the opportunity to coach you. The one thing you need to work on to make you a better player is using your left hand to dribble and pass with. When you get better at that, you are going to be simply
As compared to: "Jamie! When are you going to learn to use your left hand!! We are not in Junior High anymore!! I can't believe that you haven't learned that by now!! If you don't start getting better at it, I'm going to sit your butt down for the rest of the stinkin' season!"
Words are powerful...
As I dwelt more and more on what the lady wrote to me I thought about the stinging, hurtful words I say in my own house that would shock my basketball players who only know me as a positive coach.
You see, the ones I love the most are the ones I hurt the most. I put on my positive face when I leave my house, but when I get home, sometimes I take off my mask, hang it by the door, and become someone I am not very proud of. I am getting better at learning to treat my wife and kids with the same love, respect, and honor that I treat those outside of my home with. But I still fail my family at times, and if for nothing else I thank that woman for sending me that email.
Words... Little ink spots on a piece of paper, or syllables uttered by a tongue. They don't seem like much sometimes, but they are a powerful force that can be used to build people up, or tear people down.
I, for one, am going to try harder to build up. I know I will fail at times, but Lord willing, I will get better.
"The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit." (Proverbs 15:4)
Thanks for listening.