Clergy Confessional (31) – It’s Not About You

Categories: blog

I feel like I have been a coach forever. From the time I served my first church (1984-86), I have volunteered in local high schools with the wrestling team. I took four years off from that to coach college, but as my children grew, I offered to coach their soccer and wrestling teams. These were rewarding years – but I acknowledge there were times I wasn’t at my best. One year I had to step in at the last minute because the volunteers had backed out, and I was too stressed to do a good job. I learned an important lesson that year, and I hope the girls did too – for me, patience – for them, forgiveness.

But this post is about one’s perception and how one is perceived. I have a very loud voice, and I bark out orders on the playing field, the wrestling mat, and in practice. I was coaching my daughter’s soccer team – they were 10 or 11 – and I was doing my usual thing. One of the girls started to cry, and I had no idea why. It seemed that my voice sounded angry, and she got scared. I asked my very smart wife why the girl (there were others who got scared too) would react this way, and she said something like “Just because you aren’t angry doesn’t mean you don’t come across that way.” I worked hard after that to keep it low, but those habits are hard to break.

So it is with words, statues, and attitudes – just because we might not be affected by something doesn’t mean that others aren’t. A statue of Robert E. Lee means nothing to me – well, just that he was a loser in the Civil War – but I don’t take it personally. Of course, none of my ancestors was an enslaved person, so my white privilege keeps me from really understanding fully. The police following me around in a store might make me wonder, but I don’t think they are after me because in my worldview, I haven’t done anything wrong, so why would they? If I am African American or Latino, my worldview shifts.

It really isn’t about you or me – if someone feels threatened or afraid or insulted or … I have to take it seriously. Just because I don’t understand doesn’t mean it isn’t a real thing. Do to others as you would have them do to you is also a real thing, and if those who believe in this would follow it, we might get along better. Peace.

Author: Pastor Steve Ohnsman