Thursday, June 03, 2010

What is your enemy's perspective?

This weekend has given me an interesting perspective on my enemy's perspective and how sometimes, learning a little more about your enemy helps you understand the person behind the enemy label and finding ways to find common ground.

For those who don't know this about my life, my kids play soccer. Hubby has played since childhood, at all levels, including the professional level. I'm not a huge soccer fan, mostly because the parents drive me nuts. Last weekend, we played against a team whose parents drove me to the limits of patience, and frankly, good Christian behavior.

The team was pretty good, and they gave our team a tough game. The girls played hard. It was a physical game, and things got rough at times. There were questionable calls on both sides. Each team got goals that the other team questioned as being valid.

I'll admit, I was upset at some of the reffing. But what upset me more was listening to the parents on the other team. They yelled at the ref, yelled at their players, yelled at our team, and were so disrespectful, I had a hard time not getting into it with them. They yelled at the ref if our girls pushed, but had no problem if two of their girls body slammed my daughter at the same time to get the ball from her. They liked the rules, but only if the rules went their way. I watched as they got in the ref's face to yell at the girl for her bad calls against their team. I watched as one parent got on the field during a substitution to yell at his daughter for continually being offsides. Lots of completely inappropriate behavior, and it made me sick. I knew it would do me no good to say anything to them, other than maybe make them angrier. So I prayed for them, and I prayed for their kids.

The crazy thing about this game- their team won. In fact, our team was never ahead in the game. So why did they need to behave so ridiculously? By the end of the game, I was half afraid there'd be blood.

Imagine my surprise when, for this weekend's big tournament, we needed extra players and the head coach of our team called their team. I asked hubby if coach was crazy. Those guys hated us. Why would they play with us? Well, some of the girls accepted our invitation. Including the daughters of their coaches.

At today's games, I ended up sitting by them. And I learned about their perspective. The first thing I learned is that these parents don't know anything about soccer other than the very basic rules. I spent a good part of the game explaining the nuances of the game. No wonder they'd been yelling at the ref in the previous game- they didn't know the rules, so they didn't realize that the ref was merely following the rules! Not that yelling at the ref is okay, but at least I understood why they'd been so upset about some of the things in the previous game.

The more we talked through the game, just about the game being played, not about the previous one, the more I was able to understand their level of ignorance, and hopefully, educate them about some of the finer points of soccer. I learned that yes, they get excited about the game, and tend to be a little on the aggressive side. But it's because they're passionate about their kids. I may not agree with the way they yell at their kids while their kids play, but off the field, they were loving, compassionate moms and dads.

Instead of viewing them as "the enemy," I realized that they're just people. People who are ignorant, but open to new information. We have different philosophies. They are more focused on the win. We want our girls to develop skills and have fun- winning is just the icing. We all appreciate good plays. We all want to see our girls do their best.

The next time we play this team, I expect we'll have another tough game. Both teams have good players. But I think, when I meet the parents on the field, we'll be greeting each other like friends, rather than fearing that the other parents are going to take us out. I'll still be praying for them, and their kids.

As I thought about today's game, I realized that not knowing our enemies and their perspectives often limits our ability to love them. I had more compassion for the other parents knowing that so much of their anger stemmed from ignorance. I respected them more when I realized how much they loved their kids. I had to wonder about our other enemies. Do we hate them simply because we don't understand their perspective? Would we like them better if only we understood where they were coming from? If we saw things about our enemies that reminded us of ourselves?