October 28th, 2021
A Time to Build Up: Benching the Green-Eyed Monster
We have been bombarded in the last number of years with alarming statistics regarding the rise of anxiety and depression among our children – especially our teenagers. Many studies point to social media’s negative effects on emotional well-being. Now that we can literally look into the daily, if not hourly, lives of our friends and neighbors, we are constantly given an opportunity to compare ourselves with others.
Try as we might to monitor and limit our kids’ engagement on social media, it appears that it is here to stay. So, we remind our children that what they are observing on these platforms is simply the “highlight reel” of a person’s life. And in the case of student athletes, we are literally seeing the highlight reel. I’ve yet to come across a travel organization (or a parent!) posting a video of a kid committing an error at shortstop or popping out to the 2nd baseman on Twitter. Instead, we see the towering homeruns, the wicked curveballs, and the double plays.
It’s exciting to see young players have success on the field. As someone who has watched baseball for a long time, I know those moments don’t come along everyday even for the most skilled players. And I, for one, don’t begrudge these types of posts because they’re really, really fun to watch. The problem comes when a kid starts measuring his progress against someone else’s progress more often than focusing on being better today than he, himself, was yesterday. To be sure, that kind of maturity is a really tall order for kids and adults alike.
Last week my pastor spoke about the 10th Commandment: Do not covet. Merriam Webster describes to covet as “to feel inordinate desire for what belongs to another”. Whether you are a person or faith or not, whether you call it coveting or jealousy or envy, we all have fallen into the trap of believing that someone has something we want or deserve.
Interestingly, I’ve found that the people who have taught me the most about the ways to fight envy are not adults. They’re not those with psychology degrees. They’re not even pastors. Despite how we worry about our teens’ mental health, it is actually a bunch of teenage boys who’ve taught me the antidote to feeling jealous. Specifically, it’s a bunch of 15, 16, and 17-year-old baseball players.
I’ve been involved with baseball for well over 18 years. With three boys who all started playing tee ball at age five and who played through high school, I have met and watched the development of countless players in the Northern Virginia area. As the boys approach their sophomore, junior, and senior years in high school, many of them aspire to play in college. For those readers who are still tying their kiddo’s cleats, I know you can’t believe it, but before you blink, many of you will be seeing kids whose helmets wobbled on their little heads playing in front of college scouts all over the country.
Some of these kids are now getting offers from big name colleges. Some are fielding multiple phone calls from coaches. Some are still waiting. Just about every week we see a social media post declaring a kid’s commitment to play in college. I’ve wondered how these posts affect those who still wait and worry if their own dreams will come to pass.
What I’ve found is that no matter how they might feel on the inside, these kids are commenting with congratulations and happy emojis. They’re reposting their friends’ good news, promoting them, and celebrating their teammates’ accomplishments.
My faith tells me that there is a plan for each and every one of us. It further tells me that the plan is for good and not for harm. What these teenagers are teaching me is this truth: No one is taking the gift the Lord has intended for you. The idea that someone else has the thing that was meant for you is simply a lie.
So it is that the student becomes the teacher – a reality I find happens often in parenting. Our young athletes can find social media to be a brutal place. They can find that it chips away at their self-esteem and makes them resentful of their teammates’ successes.
Or they can choose another way. They can use social media to build-up rather than to tear down. They can celebrate. They can clap and cheer. They can send “You’re the man!” messages and repost good news and throw out “high-fives” like confetti.
When that happens, before you know it, that “green-eyed monster” who’s been lurking around trying to get in the game can’t find a seat anywhere because there’s no room for him. Nobody’s got time for that because everybody needs to get to the business of celebrating. And that’s when jealousy and envy disappear and the game gets a whole heck of a lot more fun for everyone.
Jennifer is a Texas-native living in Northern Virginia with her husband of 25 years, Steve. A free-lance writer, most of her musings recount her 17 plus years as a baseball and basketball mom to her three sons, Joe, Kyle, and Drew, on her blog, The View from Behind Home Plate. Outside of racing between basketball courts and baseball fields, she spends her time as a Women’s Bible study leader, childhood cancer advocate, and rabid Texas Longhorn fan. Her writing has also appeared in columns for Arcola Methodist Church, the Northern Virginia Travel Baseball League, the Dadvocacy Consulting Group, Dysautonomia International, and the pediatric cancer advocacy organization, Kyle’s Kamp.