Learning to have compassion for referees

I play soccer. Sometimes the referees make calls that are unfair. Sometimes they make calls that are fair but I still don’t like them. I am trying to think of some strategies to learn how to be less aversive and more accepting… as soccer will be more fun to play if I’m not getting mad and holding grudges ever 5 minutes! I have already been doing some exercises based on “Assuming Positive Intent,” which has helped a little, but I still get mad and stay mad! Has anyone practiced with something similar and have any tips?

3 Response(s)
Responded on January 16, 2017.

BAngFlashBAm, I think lots of us find that dealing with our perceptions of injustice a difficult, problematic task, so you are surely not alone in this issue. Often I find myself spinning out stories around perceived injustices of one sort or another; the more I dwell on them, the less present I become with my actual surroundings.

Either labeling  the present moment with phrases like “thinking, thinking, thinking…” or, perhaps, taking deep breaths and focusing on bodily sensations (in specific locations) — both strategies help to put some distance between the stimulus and our response.  That, indeed, may be helpful. But it only treats the symptom and probably doesn’t get at the root.

I think Bruce is quite right that sometimes a specific stimulus may trigger subconscious responses to old, buried wounds. We carry within us implicit memories of such things as well as explicit ones, so it may not be at all obvious what our triggers are.  Any over-the-top response is likely a good thing to investigate in that regard.

Certainly, an umpire of any sort is a kind of socially-sanctioned judge. It’s a perfect role to elicit perceptions of injustice. It’s the intentional actions we take, as such feelings arise, that are a measure of our momentary wisdom (or lack thereof). Your willingness to examine your own anger is quite healthy, I think. It shows that you have enough love for your own well being to want change and the intelligence to recognize that anger is a ‘double-edged sword’. Not everyone can do that, you know.

I’ve heard it said that ultimately there are only two profound human feelings, which underlie an enormous range of human behavior. Love is one; fear is the other. Perhaps a good question to ask is, “How is this anger-energy tied to fear?”.  What is my ego frightened of? Is it even a realistic fear? (It doesn’t have to be to have power over us, of course). Love pulls things together; fear pushes them apart. Why isn’t my ego willing to let an inconvenient judgment stand? What’s really at stake?

Clearly, our expectations of just how the Universe should behave easily get us upset. It is difficult to witness over and over just how unreliable our expectations are. Very little is certain in this world, and who wants to face that fact head on, eh? The outcome of soccer games, gosh, that’s just the tip of a much larger iceberg.

So much of our passion is of the moment… like weather, it comes and goes. If it’s not here, just wait — it will eventually reappear. If it is here, just wait — it will eventually disappear. That is a perspective worth remembering — difficult as it may be in the heat of the moment.

If we could but hold much longer time spans in our minds, I suspect our hearts would behave quite differently.

For example, consider this: if the umpire is older than you are, there is an excellent chance that you will outlive him. He will probably have to face his death well before you do. Can your heart not muster some compassion for that umpire, then. Soccer games come and go, but whole lives  come and go just as well. These are simple realities. Framed in light of mutual mortality, perhaps the perceived injustice of the moment can take on a different tone…

Deep, persistent anger is but a symptom of old and tangled feelings. May it be released safely.

May we learn to let go and return to a present moment that is as much the umpires’ as it is our own. Ultimately, the end of anger — the end of fear — is the end of separation.

There is lots to ponder here; thank you for such an important post.


Responded on January 17, 2017.

Larry and Bruce,

Thank you so much for your thoughts and encouraging words!

I agree with the two of you, that something deeper is being tugged on. Personal learned issues with people in positions of power, better yet, untrustworthy/unsafe people in positions of power are being tapped into. Also, Larry, the whole “things not going the way I want,” “I’m not in control of everything” is assuredly part of it… I left my last game frustrated because the refs didn’t do anything bad enough for me to get mad about!

Responded on January 17, 2017.