A girl caught my eye in the 4th grade, and I kept that crush until college. But in 5th grade I did something about it. I asked Cheryl to be my handball partner for my elementary school handball tournament. Honestly, I had a smile as wide as the Bay Bridge when she said yes.
The tournament wasn’t for a few weeks still, and I always had a problem with thinking too many girls were cute. That problem confronted me horribly on the baseball field one day.
In the distance I could see “the pack” of 5th grade girls as they were making a bee-line straight toward me. Filled with dread was I that day my friends. A boy learns early on a deep Shakespearian life truth: “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”…even in 5th grade.
The pack came to confront me.
I wasn’t thinking very clearly when in a moment of forgetfulness (and I suppose weakness) I asked Laurie to be my handball partner for my elementary school handball tournament. Well, truth was I wanted to win that tournament, and Laurie looked stronger to me.
The pack got right to the point. “Why did you ask Laurie to be your handball partner when you already asked Cheryl?”
Deer in the headlights moment.
Thoughts to myself: “I did do that didn’t I.” “That was pretty stupid.” “What was I thinking?”
Reality was, I wasn’t thinking. I was indecisive. Inconsistent.
But the last thing a 5th grade boy wants is lose face in front of a bunch of girls, and there was a snowballs chance in hell I was going to admit something to make myself look bad. So I kept tossing the ball and said nothing. Passivity starts early in men.
The pack stood there awaiting an answer. “So who do you want to be your handball partner?”
If crickets chirped in broad daylight, this would be one of those moments. Loudly!
I’m sure my face was flush with the burn of embarrassment. How do I dodge this bullet?
Finally, I croaked an answer. “I didn’t mean to.” Skirting responsibility. “I want Cheryl to be my partner, that is why I asked her first.” That is the truth.
Apparently accepting of this answer, the pack about-faced and bee-lined back to whatever 5th grade girls do on the playground. I breathed a sigh of relief, but the burn in my face remained. My inconsistency was exposed.
Inconsistency. The definition of inconsistent helps more as dictionary.com states, “acting at variance with professed principles.” Inconsistency is not sticking with your principles…your core beliefs. Problem is at our core we are all walking inconsistencies.
I want to help the homeless, but dread when I see them outside my car asking for money. Inconsistent. I made vows to my wife to place her needs before my own, but often prefer to play games on my phone rather than rubbing an excruciating back. Inconsistent. I say I believe God is good, but doubt His goodness when I don’t get something I really want. Inconsistent. Just three of many examples in me.
I wish it wasn’t so. And I never like a glaring spotlight shining on my inconsistency for all to see, especially my wife. But sometimes it’s what we need.
The brilliant spotlight shone on the Apostle Peter one night. There is an episode in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 14 where Jesus is walking on the water approaching the boat where the disciples are rowing across the Sea of Galilee. Peter says, in effect, “Hey man, if it’s you Jesus, call me out there to walk to you.” Jesus calls back, “Come on out bro!” (Mick translation) Peter does, walks on the water, then freaks out and starts to sink.
Cue the spotlight. “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?'” (Matthew 14:30-31)
Peter was exposed. “Why did you doubt?” Jesus asked. Inconsistency highlighted. Peter believed that if Jesus called him out there he could walk on water. He could do it if he kept his eyes on Jesus. Problem was he took his eyes off Jesus, looked at the wind and waves, and began to sink.
Jesus called him out on his inconsistency. Our culture today doesn’t like being called out on anything. But Peter needed it. We need it too. Why?
- We tend to be wishy-washy about beliefs because we are picking ideas up from a variety of inconsistent sources. But beliefs (convictions) aren’t solid unless they work under pressure.
- Until pushed we don’t always have our convictions set.
- Moments of crisis tend to sort out what our core beliefs really are.
- We often don’t have people of good character around us strong enough to call us out on our inconsistencies. And often we won’t listen or reject what they are saying. (This is our problem not theirs.)
- Often times we don’t even see our blind spots and inconsistencies, so we need people around us willing to give us this necessary feedback.
- If we can’t see our own inconsistencies, sometimes a startling event or conversation is necessary to make us aware.
Jesus called him out, but Peter doesn’t turn on Jesus and say, “Man, you are always down on me.” Peter took this criticism in and watched further events unfold. They get into the boat, and then Jesus calms the tumultuous winds. What would you do in that instance? I’d be like Keanu Reeves in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and shout “Whoa!” But the disciples just exclaimed, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
So what can we learn from Peter’s spotlight experience?
- If someone has the guts to call us out on our inconsistency, hear them out.
- Maybe if we have the guts, we can ask a few questions about how they saw this inconsistency in play.
- Try not to react. Try to take several hours, or even days to contemplate the feedback this bold person gave.
- Let a little more of life unfold before we tell other people about how someone called us out on our inconsistency.
- Perhaps consider there is something to learn from this. Maybe this is a character-building fork in our road that we might not have noticed had someone not said something.
- Try to see the bigger picture, not just our picture. Our actions always affect more than just us.
Peter needed to be called out in order to shore up his belief that Jesus was the real deal. It took this confrontation for Peter’s conviction to set in cement. Peter didn’t dwell on and lament the confrontation. He took it in and grew from it. There’s something we can learn from that in this modern era.
Maybe confrontation is not as bad a thing as we think. Maybe we need to reconsider it’s purpose. Because when we consider all the moving parts to it, there are a lot of ways we can grow from a challenging conversation. Not the least of which is nailing down life principles to live by.
I needed to be confronted by “the pack” of girls. Otherwise I would have lingered in the throes of inconsistency. I couldn’t have both girls as handball partners. That jarring conversation made me choose. I needed that.
I still need it. I need to be confronted by my wife, my friends, and my co-workers if my inconsistency is showing. It helps me be a person who lives with integrity. And the world needs more people who are living with integrity.
Now about the crush lasting 10 years, that is a story for another day.