In our service of the men and women in sport, not everyone will be lovely and kind. Not everyone will be amiable and honorable. Not everyone will be wise and reasonable. We will certainly be surrounded by some unlovely, crude, mean, selfish, and nasty people. Our sphere of service and influence extends to the nasty as well as the nice. We must care for the obnoxious unlovely as well as the absolutely lovable. How shall we accomplish this? I have some simple thoughts listed below.
1. Purpose to appropriate Christ’s love you have received toward others. When dealing with difficult people or with those with whom I cannot connect well, I will pray for the person and set my will to transfer the love I have received from the Lord Jesus to this person. This may seem overly simple, but it is very effective in shaping one’s attitude toward the less than lovable in our lives.
2. Make a list of the person’s admirable traits and affirm them when you interact with him or her. This may certainly be difficult, but it is worth it. To find a characteristic of the person, to name it in conversation with him, to write a complimentary text message or card, to speak well of that person’s character in public, can turn an annoyance into an alliance.
3. Seek an opportunity to serve or to give the person a gift. It’s really hard to maintain a grudge or to keep a conflict alive when we are serving or giving gifts to them. The Proverbs are full of wisdom for how one’s gift can pacify contentions and Jesus’ way is to love even our enemies.
4. Remind yourself that this person is one whom the Lord Jesus loves. Through decades of leading in summer sports camps, I would challenge our staff about half way through the camp to love the campers (and other staff members), who had grown into annoyances. I would challenge them with this thought. “When you see that terribly annoying person, the one who gets on your last nerve, say to yourself, ‘Here comes the one whom the Lord loves.’ That may be enough to help you control your attitude, to reshape your tone of voice, and to find a way to communicate the same love the Lord has for him or her.”
5. Give the person some space. Sadly, not everyone wants to hang out with us. You may be gracious, kind, loving, and wise, but some people will still resist you and may even be antagonistic toward you. Relax. Some people make assumptions about you due to poor relationships with others in your role, with others from your organization, with others in the Church, with Christian family or friends, or they simply don’t like how you wear your hair. Give them some space. An opportunity to serve may come along that can crash through those barriers and you may be the one person on the planet well prepared to care for the person and to extend the love to Christ Jesus in the most appropriate and timely way.
In summary, may I challenge you to love extravagantly and to serve selflessly, the lovable and the unlovely, the wise and the foolish, the amiable and the surly, the gregarious and the grouchy. In doing so, we emulate and honor the Lord Jesus.