Love is patient, love is kind…it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs, (1 Corinthians 13:4-5, NIV).
She was at it again. Mrs. Barnett was getting out the scorecards and tallying up the points.
I sat with an older woman as she began enumerating her family’s shortcomings. “Callie never comes to see me,” she began to complain about her granddaughter. “And she never calls me either. I saw her sitting on the other side of the church last week and she didn’t even come over and give me a hug.”
“Benjamin is just as bad,” she continued, talking about her grandson. “He never comes by unless he wants something. I never hear from him, but if he wants money for a mission trip you better believe I get a letter. He’s just like his father,” she continued. “He never pays any attention to me unless he wants something.”
Throughout our time together, Mrs. Barnett mentioned several family members and friends who had disappointed her, who had not lived up to her expectations, and who had not given her the love she “deserved.” The more I listened; the clearer a picture began to take shape in my mind.
I envisioned Mrs. Barnett with a big stack of scorecards. At the top of each card was a name: a grandchild, a child, a friend, a pastor, and yes, even one with my name printed across the top. If someone telephoned her, they got 1point. If they stopped by for a visit, they got 1 point. If they gave her a hug without being asked, they got 1 point. If they told her she looked pretty, they got 2 points.
However, if they did not show the proper display of affection, they lost 5 points. If they did not come by for a visit within the expected amount of time, they lost 5 points. If they did not send her a card on the appropriate days, they lost 5 points. Birthday cards, Christmas gifts, phone calls, visits, etc, were all tallied on mental scorecards for later retrieval. She was very busy keeping track of all the plusses and minuses for each person.
I shook my head to clear away the movie being played in the theater of my mind and tried to pay attention to our conversation. After all, I didn’t want to get a bad mark on my scorecard that day.
Friend, let me tell you a great life lesson. As long as this woman keeps mental scorecards on the people in her life, she is going to be miserable. And if you or I keep scorecards for the people in our lives, we will be miserable as well.
First Corinthians 13 says, “Love is patient, love is kind…it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs,” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).
Love is about giving – not necessarily about giving money or gifts, but giving love. Can I say that again? Love is about giving love. Love does not keep arecord of wrongs or perceived wrongs. It does not involve an accounting tally sheet of debits and credits or scorecards of plusses and minuses. It does not keep a running list of kindnesses to reward those who come out on top and shun those who do not.
Self-centeredness says, “What has that person done for me lately?” Love says, “What can I do for that person today?”
Self-centeredness makes mental lists of how others have disappointed them. Love makes mental lists of ways they can bless others.
Self-centeredness withholds affection and approval from those who don’t deserve it. Love gives affection unconditionally because none of us do deserve it.
Self-centeredness says, “Come here and give me a hug.” Love says, “Come here and let me hug you.”
Can you tell the difference? A ten-year-old certainly can. He or she might not be able to verbalize the difference or even recognize it, but they certainly feel the difference in the pit of their stomachs and in the tenderness of their hearts.
With genuine love, there are no scorecards. I’m certainly glad God tore up mine long ago.
David wrote, “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sin, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3 NIV). Certainly not me!
If God doesn’t keep a scorecard, making notes of the ways I have offended Him, disappointed Him, or not given Him the attention He deserves, then why do I think I have the right to keep scorecards on the people in my little world? He doesn’t give plusses and minuses and then tally up our cards to see whether or not we deserve His love. So why do we do it to others? God gives and gives and gives, and gets very little in return. Why does He do that? Because He loves you and me perfectly, wholly, and unconditionally.
Scorecards. Do you keep them? Do you keep mental lists of what people do and don’t do to deserve your love? If so, you’ll never be content or at peace in your relationships. No one may see the scorecards sitting on your coffee table, but they’ll know they are there. They will see them in your eyes, hear them in your tone, and sense them in your touch. And there may be a few brave souls who refuse to play the game and decide to bow out of your life altogether.
Here is what I would like to suggest. Tear up the scorecards. Here’s how:
Get a stack of index cards. Write one person’s name at the top of each card. Start with your children, your grandchildren, your parents, your in-laws, your spouse, your siblings, your pastor. Then move on to your circle of friends. Beside each name, write the words, “Scorecard.” For example: Beth’s Scorecard.
Hold the stack of scorecards in your hand and pray:
“Dear Lord, I am no longer going to keep a scorecard for ____________. Help me love like You love – unconditionally, with no strings attached. Help me to be thankful for the attention I do receive rather than resentful for what I don’t. I do not want to become a bitter old woman that people avoid, but a grateful, graceful lady people enjoy. And Lord, whenever I begin to fall into the old habit of making mental notes of how someone did not live up to my expectations, I pray that You will convict me quickly and help me to replace the negative thoughts with a prayer of thanksgiving. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
After you have prayed, take each scorecard in your hands and tear it into tiny pieces. Now, throw them away. Be free. Be blessed. Enjoy life.
If you actually did this exercise, I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment and say, I did it!
One of the ways we build relationships or destroy relationships is with the words we speak. Words can make or break a marriage, encourage or discourage a child, draw in or push away a friend. If you would like to tame your tongue and learn how to use your words to speak life into those in your sphere of influence, check out my book, The Power of a Woman’s Words and accompanying study guide. It is a favorite for Women’s Bible studies and small groups.