It was a warm humid morning in Florida when I went to my first Broom Hockey class. As I walked across the college campus, along with all the other students hurrying to first period, I got many strange looks. I wore a thickly knit beanie, double layered hoodie, and wind pants. The winter clothes didn't fit with the spring look worn by my fellow classmates, but on the ice rink, it was a necessity.
Broom Hokey is a bizarre sport. It is like regular hockey, except that you play in your shoes instead of skates, you use a broom instead of a hockey stick, and you hit a rubber ball instead of a puck. Running around on ice in your shoes may not sound difficult, but it can become absolute pandemonium if you're not careful. Also, the brooms are not really "brooms" but more like a metal stick with a hard plastic fan on the end that is anything but downy soft when it hits you in the face.
Broom Hockey was not my first choice for a PE class. I registered late, had to take a PE, and it was the only one left. I was, and have never been, fond of contact sports, so a class that would yield many bruises didn't seem very promising.
However, I soon concocted a strategy of self-preservation. In hopes of avoiding injury, I immediately volunteered to be the goalie. "The goalie gets to wear padding and protection, so I won’t get too many bruises," was my thinking. Thus I took my place, contentedly kneeling in front of the goal trying to keep the ball away from me whenever possible.
As the ball is in play, the people on the rink are in a constant state of yelling at their teammates trying to direct them or let them know where to hit the ball. I took part in a lot of this yelling when I was goalie. From my position I could see every error people made. No stupid play or careless mistake escaped my view.
"Round the rim! Round the rim!" I would yell repeatedly as they tried to get the ball away from the other team.
"Don't center it! Get it out of there!" I screamed at my teammates. They were still bleary-eyed from the early hour of the morning and quite often absent-mindedly set up the ball perfectly for the opposition.
"Hey! Hey! Coach! She's high sticking!" I whined as I pointed out a penalty against the opposition. “High-sticking” was when a player raised their broom higher than their waist, a penalty that existed for a very practical, injury-reducing reason.
In short, I was extremely annoying. I lectured my teammates on how to play while I sat in the goal covered in protection. But at the same time, I wasn't wrong. I knew how to play the game. That was the whole point of the class, after all, to teach us how to play Broom Hockey.
However, I was all talk and no substance. Things were very different once I was forced to rotate out of my goalie position and become a right wing. NowI was the one responsible for keeping the ball out of the other team’s reach and avoiding hitting others with my broom. Now the goalie was yelling at me and calling out all my blunders and my teammates seemed to get a bit of pleasure in seeing how badly I played. I fell a lot too and solid ice is a humbling thing to hit your face on at 8 o’clock in the morning.
In my broom hockey class I learned the true definition of humility. I also came face to face with another principle of life: graciousness is important despite possible superior knowledge. Just because you know the truth on a matter does not give you the right to be a jerk about it. Graciousness builds up a team while pointing out mistakes in pride tears one down. My experience proved the truth of Proverbs 15:1 to me, “Harsh words stir up anger.”
A lot of harsh words and yelled opinions permeate our society today. Last year's election made for a breeding ground of loudly shared opinions on both extremes of the political spectrum across social media platforms and the Internet. Graciousness was a rarity.
Please don’t mistake my meaning; there are times we as Christians should exhibit righteous anger for the wrongs done in our world, a.k.a. sin. However, like the writer of Ecclesiastes says over and over, there is a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). “A time to give your opinion in all caps and a time to respond with kindness,” might be a practical iteration for today.
The point I'm trying to make is that you reap what you sow when it comes to how you interact with people.
I see a lot of people who are really angry because other people are angry and, in turn, they are shown anger. The cycle never ends.
Also, very much like my situation in broom hockey, it is very easy to criticize someone when you are not in his or her shoes. Beware whom you ridicule when you don't know their situation. Remember that the fruit of the Spirit includes love, kindness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
So let our first reaction be graciousness and love; it is a simple truth but a timely one. There will be times for strong opinions and staunch opposition, and indeed those are aplenty. But let us not lose sight of this simple truth: when you get out on the rink and yell at your teammates, don't be surprised when they yell at you too. To be a team is to work together. Real, honest love towards one another brings more unity than anger. Let us pray God gives us discernment for when to exhibit either.