We were a week out from a soccer tournament against our biggest rivals when the trash-talking started. My teammates kept going on about how much we hated our rival team and the awful things they’d done. We’d definitely had some negative encounters with this team during past games, but to be honest, it seemed like my teammates were mostly using the trash talk to hype all of us up before the big match.
In the Christian Science Sunday School, I’d learned the value of filtering out negative thoughts so you can hear the good, healing thoughts from God more clearly. And at first, I was able to keep the impression that the other players were aggressive and mean out of my head. However, as I got closer to the game, I had a harder time blocking out these thoughts. This is when everything started to go downhill.
The game against our rival was very messy. While I was playing, I found myself looking for the negative qualities in the other players, and it ended up being a dirty game in which both sides were more focused on irritating the other team than on playing the beautiful sport we loved. Not only did my teammates and I forget our reason for being there, but we also lost the game.
I found myself looking for the negative qualities in the other players, and it ended up being a dirty game.
The next day we regrouped. After playing a series of other teams, we began to gel again and to feel more like the team we wanted to be. We even talked about the previous day’s game and how those negative thoughts hadn’t helped us, but had actually thwarted our ability to play our best.
When finals rolled around, it was clear that we would be going up against our rivals again. While I did feel nervous, this time, I knew what needed to happen. I was not going to allow those unkind, unspiritual thoughts to barge in and take over. I prayed for myself and everyone in the tournament by knowing that God was there with all of us—including the other team. I knew that because God is All and we are each the expression of God, we all must express God’s qualities and nothing else. I was able to identify some of these qualities, like persistence, commitment, respect, and love. I could see how both teams were embodying these qualities; we couldn’t have made it this far without them.
I used Jesus’ parable of the tares and the wheat as inspiration (see Matthew 13:24–30). In the story, the tares are weeds that look almost identical to wheat, but unlike wheat, are a big nuisance. In our soccer game, the “tares” were the negative thoughts about the other players that might seem true but could never actually be true because they weren’t based in God. Only the “wheat” thoughts—the thoughts about each player’s goodness—could be true. By throwing out the thought-tares, I left room only for good thoughts, only for harmony.
I actively looked for evidence of God in everything that happened on the field.
The game started off on a positive note. And throughout the game, I actively looked for evidence of God in everything that happened on the field. I made an effort to exchange some quick, kind words, or a high five, with someone from the other team. These things may sound small, but they really helped remind me that there was no one playing soccer that day who wasn’t an expression of God. My mentality had changed completely, and as a result, the feeling on the field was different, too—and more constructive.
While the match didn’t go perfectly smoothly, it really turned out to be a beautiful game of soccer. I also noticed that I didn’t feel like I was lacking energy, even though this was our sixth game in a row and was one of the most intense games I’d ever played. In the end, I was able to score, and my team went on to win the game in overtime with a final score of 3 to 2.
The bigger win was the complete change in perspective that I had, and that my whole team ended up having, which allowed us to honor the other players’ God-given gifts and abilities—and our own.