Conditional Love

At the high school I coach at, all the head coaches are currently doing a book study.   I don’t mind it.  I’m an English teacher.  So reading doesn’t bother me.  We’re reading a book titled InsideOut Coaching by Joe Ehrmann.  I recommend this book for coaches, teachers, and even parents.  It gives great insight.  A lot of what I’ve been reading so far has made me think about and even question my coaching and teaching.  (Which I’m pretty sure is the purpose of the book!)  As I was reading this week from Chapter 4, one thing the author said caught my attention and it has been on my mind the past few days.  Needless to say I must write about it:

Conditional love.

We all hear the phrase “unconditional love” or “loving unconditionally”  tossed around here-and-there throughout our lives.  But in this one paragraph of Chapter 4, Ehrmann says something that has really put my brain in a scramble!  He says:

“We may see our children as extensions of our needs for validation, acceptance, and approval.  Their performance has the power to aggrandize or minimize us.  The social status of the parents of the star players increases; parents can beam; parents can be proud of their genetic product– a part of themselves out there performing well.  What’s worse, I see many parents subconsciously make their displays of love conditional by showing more approval and affirmation if their child performs better on the field and less approval after a bad game.”

This really made me think about my coaching and teaching. Even my life as a friend and as a daughter.   I’ve been guilty of subconsciously showing conditional love to my students and players based on their performance.  When in reality, my love and care for them shouldn’t be conditional.  We all have our days, I know.  But I’ll be the first person to admit that most times it’s by my body language and facial expressions that shows my conditional love.  One thing I’ve learned from this book so far is that these kinds of things have lasting impressions on our youth.  The disapproving looks.   The scoffing.  The cold shoulders and silent treatments.  Teenagers will grow up years from now and remember some of these moments of disapproval or conditional love that might still be burning in the backs of their minds.  Whether it’s from a teacher, coach, or even a parent.

I’m thankful as I grew up playing sports that my mom was never conditional towards me with her love based on how well I performed athletically or even academically.  My mother loved me no matter what.  Whether I had 2 points or 20 points.  Whether I stopped every single goal or got mercy-ruled.  She didn’t base her love for me by conditions.

And when I think about it, I’m reminded of the love My Heavenly Father has for me.  His love is unconditional.  I’m so glad He’s not up there wagging His finger at me, or giving me the silent treatment when I mess up in life.  Nope.  He still hears when I call.  He’s still there when I’m not.  He loves me the same on my worst days AND my best days.  His love does not change.  He’s the ultimate example of what love is and what love should look like.

So, if I’m being open and transparent (like I promised I would be back on my very first blog entry), that’s one thing I’m definitely going to focus on this semester:  I don’t want my students or players (or anyone else at that matter) to think I love and care about them only if they perform well; or that I’m only proud of them when they’re being successful.  I want my displays of body language, facial expressions, words, and reactions to match my heart.

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