Our nine year old daughter is playing softball these days and plays really well in practice in our back yard with my husband. However, we noticed at team practice and at the games, she is very timid in throwing the ball. I asked her what’s going on and she replied, “I don’t want to hurt the catcher or embarrass her if she can’t catch”. I couldn’t understand it at the time, but her response sat with me for a long time. I tried explaining to her that it wasn’t up to her to decide if the catcher could catch the ball, I even explained how in one particular play that the catcher was the team’s best player, so she could catch the ball and that her throwing a short ball, actually cost the team. But, it all went to deaf ears. Finally, I decided to go into her realm of “feelings”. I asked her how she thinks the catcher would feel if she knew that my daughter thought she couldn’t catch the ball? That somehow resonated with her. She realized that by assuming that the catcher couldn’t catch the ball, she was insulting her.
This incident reminds me of all the times in life we play it small to not hurt someone, to not seem arrogant, and then we wonder why we get stepped on or treated with disrespect when we just wanted to help someone out. I think it has to do with our misunderstanding of what compassion is all about. Somehow in those moments when we are playing it small, we justify it in our own minds thinking that we are being compassionate. In reality we are not. Compassion is not assuming that someone can’t do something. That’s arrogance. When we assume that someone is not capable of doing something, we are being judgmental and arrogant in our assumption. And people pick that up. No one wants to be thought of as weak or incapable, so when we treat them that way, they resent us.
Our business in life as don Miguel Ruiz points out in his book: The Four Agreements, is to always do our best, no more, no less. Now, if we do our best and not make any assumptions, we are already living out 2 of the 4 agreements he writes about. So, the next time you feel like playing it small, ask yourself: Am I making any assumptions? Am I being/doing my best? If you are satisfied with your answers, then go on and play the best and biggest game of your life. When you play it big, you just might inspire someone else to do the same.