Ever since my oldest daughter was three, I’ve been coaching my daughters’ soccer teams.
Years ago I signed up to take an intensive two-month course to receive what is called a D license to allow me to coach regional travel teams at the premier level.
The United States Soccer Federation offers national licensure for coaches, with E the lowest level, then D, then C, B, and A. Those who get E licenses tend to be thirty pounds overweight, have never played soccer before, and end up in the emergency room hyperventilated after practice. Those who get A licenses have played professionally in Europe, stand roughly three foot nine, run at near-Olympic speed, speak Italian, and end up coaching college teams.
I wasn’t about to humiliate myself by starting out with a measly little E license. I decided to skip that and go straight for the D license course. The first day of class, I knew I was in trouble.
“People, this is going to be hands-on training,” said the class trainer, “three hours a day, three nights a week, all day Saturday, for two months.” I thought, You’ve got to be kidding! I thought this was just going to be classroom work! Into the gymnasium we went, and our sadistic trainer, just arrived in the U.S. from some Eastern European country somewhere, asked for volunteers.
I thought, I’ll volunteer first, make an impression, and get this drill over with. Seventy-five minutes later, I was in the corner heaving. My T-shirt was completely drenched with sweat. My legs felt like rubber. My arms were hurting, and I thought, Oh great, don’t your arms start hurting before you have a heart attack? I’m going to be the first person to die trying to become a soccer coach!
The hubris with which I thought I could immediately compete with premier level coaches is nothing compared to the pride I struggle with every day of my life. Someone once told me that every person has two or three besetting sins that tend to trip us up in life. One of mine is pride.
It comes as no surprise, then, that God has gifted me with a predicament that has caused me to humble myself. Forgiveness—genuine forgiveness—never comes from those who are prideful. Forgiving our enemies requires us to swallow our pride. It causes us to allow people to win a fight. It forces us to choose not to retaliate when we know we could.
Certain philosophers have made the point that only weak people forgive, which has, in turn, riled up the faithful to provide a stern response. The reality is the philosophers are correct. Only weak, humbled people can find the way to forgiveness. That’s a good thing.
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