“The ump hates me,” a teammate moaned as he trudged back to the dugout. “That’s the second time he called a third strike on me.” The coach told him to swing the next time he’s down two strikes. “Who knows, you just might hit the ball,” he said.
Tough words for a twelve-year- old kid to hear, but the coach was right. The kid needed to swing. There is no guarantee that we’ll connect and be successful. There is, however, a guarantee that we will fail should we just stay put. It’s not that some umpire or an arbitrary situation “has our number” and “is out to get us.” That kind of thinking illustrates that the person’s belief system puts them at THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE. If you find yourself whining about some personal injustice, like a called third strike, or “always” getting in the wrong line at the grocery store, it is not because some force in the universe is picking on you.
The psychological term for that kind of thinking (that “stinkin’ thinkin’”) is “external locus of control.” That is, we see life and situations as happening to us outside of our personal control or effort. Helpless against the raging tide of life, we are tossed to and fro. With such a mindset, one is often subject to the whims of other people. Feeling weak, but not sharing such vulnerability with a trusted other, that person gets clues about how to act (or even think) from someone else or from the situation itself. I saw this a lot when working with teenagers as a parish priest. Too many kids got their sense of self-worth by be a part of the “in crowd.” The cool kids may have been acting in destructive or inappropriate ways but being part of that group was, in
some teens’ mind, far better than being outside of it.
“Co-dependency” is another term for this stinkin thinkin. I’m okay if you’re okay, even if that means that I constantly compromise personal values or beliefs in order to be with you. Unless you love me, I’m worthless. This unequal partnership of one-up (you) and one-down (me) allows me to play the victim and take no responsibility for the success or failure of the relationship. I can whine about how everything works against me in life (called third strikes, wrong lines, string of red traffic lights) and not have to change. I don’t have to work at developing a team of co-equal partners. Here’s where a swing for the fences mentality could help.
Show up. Dig in. Suck less. No one and no thing is out to get you. Life happens. Others cannot carry you through life; at some point, you have to do your part. Swing. That’s all we ask. You won’t get a hit unless you control your attitude and your effort. We’re not looking for perfection, just someone who shows up, digs in, and is part of the team. Flush the co-dependent mindset of having someone or something define you. You’re good enough to be on this team. So be on it, be part of it, and do your best. That’s all we expect and all we want.