What Is the Prize Anyway?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Jordan came down and joined me on the couch this morning before school. Fortunately I'd had the first good night's sleep I've had in weeks and his too long "bed hair" struck me as funny, so I was in the mood to chat with him. (Not a common morning disposition for me...it normally takes me until around 10 to be ready to face my world. Always has.)

"Mom," he said. "I'm having a problem. I can't figure out a way to settle this argument I'm having with brother." By now, brother was sitting on the chair across from us, arms crossed, a scowl on his face. Jordan cracks me up. He is so incredibly intuitive. Just yesterday he was complaining to me about not having anyone to play with on the playground and he listed off a number of reasons why not. I went back and forth with him about it for a little bit (which never works) and finally just sighed and said, "Self imposed limitations, Jordan. Just Self imposed limitations." Jordan is 7. And he got it...with a little bit of explaining. That cracks me up. A couple of minutes later there was a story about how a friend said another class shouldn't copy their game because it's not nice to copy. (This is a grade school thing, I guess...) I said, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Jordan."
"I know Mom. That's what I tried to tell Kohl. It just means they really like what you did, right?" He cracks me up. 7 years old.

Needless to say, I learn a lot from that one. Fast forward back to this morning's couch conversation. Apparently the argument was something along the lines of, "my teacher says that our class already won that contest, " and "Nuh-uh. They didn't announce who won yet." Parents hate these "my teacher said" oriented arguments. About the time you say, "your teacher wouldn't say that", she does. Usually I duck out of them, but Jordan asked for my help so politely with that hilarious sticky up hair that I decided to take a shot at it. A quick assessment of the opposing viewpoints and Caleb's posture quickly told me that there wasn't a win here so I better try something different.

"Well Jordan," I said, without inviting Caleb into the conversation, "what do you gain if you win this argument?"
"If you win the argument and it turns out that you're right, do you win a prize or something?"
"What would you get?"
"Well, I'd be right."
"Would being right help you get along with your brother better?"
As these things are coming out of my mouth, the higher truth is crashing in, perhaps for the first time, on my senses.
"So there is no prize for being right, and it won't help you get along with brother better. Maybe the best way to solve your problem is to just decide the argument isn't worth having. Just tell brother you don't want to have the argument anymore and that he can think what he wants."
"Brother, I don't want to argue about it anymore."
"Ok." said Caleb, shrugging and off they both went to find their library books leaving me sitting there in one of those "God chooses the simple things to shame the wise" moments that leave you shaking your head wondering what just happened.

The idea has been tumbling through my head and heart all day. I've understood some things about the principle before, but never has it been so stunningly simple.

There are no prizes in this world for being right. Doing right...maybe...but I can't think of a single reward that we can gain for "being" right. In fact, isn't the opposite usually true? My personality is one that insists that I make sure I'm right before I do or say something and consequently I am very often "right"...technically "right". Honestly, all it's ever gotten me is hated. There are no prizes for being right...especially being right at the expense of another, but there can be negative consequences. Doesn't really make much sense anymore to make sure everyone knows I'm right.

There is a definite right and wrong, and I don't think I'm saying that we shouldn't try to be and do what's right. It will turn out in Caleb and Jordan's little argument that one of them is right. One of them will be wrong. Sure I would prefer that they would both have had accurate info and been right and in agreement. Here's the thing I know about my boys. When one of them is finally proved wrong, he'll just say, "I never said that...I don't know what you're talking about!" or my personal favorite, "I'm not the one who said that, you are. You are the one who was wrong. You don't remember it right!" Oh brother!

But there is a much higher principle here than right and wrong...higher...what? Yeah. When the crowds asked Jesus what the greatest command was, Jesus didn't say..."What do you mean greatest? All of God's commands are to be obeyed equally!" Nope. He said, "Love God," and with barely a breath between, "and love your neighbor as yourself."

"Above all, dear boys, Love one another deeply...for love covers a multitude of sins." Love covers so darn many wrongs.
That's the prize.
Step back. Re-evaluate. Ask myself, "what am I trying to gain anyway and will winning this argument get me that?"
I want to gain love, favor, honor, respect, deep trusting relationships.

Today I plan to begin losing arguments.

Instead of defending and sparring, I'll laugh at myself and in so doing endear myself to you. I'll consider instead your point of view. If I can't accept it, I'll find another topic on which we both can agree. That's not so hard. And I'll love you. I'll love, honor and respect you. Even on the day when we finally both find out you were wrong...I'll let you say it was me...because I love you, and that's the prize I want. I want to be allowed to love you.


Anonymous said...

Jen, you have a real writing talent. I'll be excited to read more of your posts. Halfway inspires me to start my own blog!