I don’t know about you, but I can’t get enough of the World Cup.
I’m not just talking about the soccer (although that’s fun, too) but it’s the non-athletic activity that keeps making the headlines. From man-made “seismic activity” in Mexico and Chile, to a Croatian striker getting sent home after refusing to play, to the performance (or underperformance) of the Saudi Arabia soccer team.
That last one really gets me.
After losing to Russia in a 5-0 shutout, Saudi Arabia’s performance was quickly labeled as one of the worst in the history of the World Cup. Apparently, it was so abysmal, Turki bin Abdulmohsen Al-Sheikh, the chairman of the General Sport Authority, cited the game as a ‘total fiasco’—one which made his face “go black with embarrassment and fury.”
Adel Ezzat, the Saudi Arabian Football Federation chief, immediately jumped on the bandwagon, stating:
“We are very disappointed by the defeat. This result is totally unsatisfactory because it does not reflect the true level of our preparedness. Several players will face a penalty.”
The severity of their penalty remains unclear. Perhaps a fine. Perhaps removal from the national team. Perhaps, in a country that enforces capital punishment, that could be the penalty.
I don’t know.
Whatever the case (and let’s pray to God it’s not the last one), any outsider can most likely agree that penalties such as these are unfit, unjust, and overall downright ridiculous to place on someone’s performance in a soccer game.
Am I right?
And yet, how many times do we do this to ourselves? How many times do we place unfit, unjust, and overall ridiculous penalties on our own performances? How many times have we been Adel Ezzat?
I know I, for one, have been guilty of this. I’m very familiar with the crushing ache of humility that comes from slipping up and underperforming. I know exactly how it feels to do something so poorly, my face goes black with embarrassment and fury. And I know the self-inflicting penalties I imagine will come later.
It usually sounds something like this:
“If I don’t [insert goal/ideal performance here] then [insert severe penalty here].”
If I don’t write the perfect book and find an agent to represent me, I’ll never get published and my writing will clearly be terrible and no one will ever want to read it. All my hard work, my time—everything—will all be worthless.
If I’m not the perfect mom, what will happen to my kids?? (I’ll spare you the comprehensive list of things I fear will happen to my kids.)
If I don’t make the best times while training for CG Games, then I’ll fail the competition and be a total disgrace. How would my loved ones even be able to look at me then?
How ridiculous do those things sound? I’ll answer that for you. They sound ridiculously ridiculous. And yet, those thoughts float through my mind with ease. For a moment (sometimes more) I may even believe them.
But threats of unreasonable penalties will not make anyone perform better. It will simply make us afraid to play the game.
Because here’s the truth: You are not perfect. You never will be. You’ll mess up over and over and over again because you’re human.
And, for that same exact reason, you are also deeply loved.
No performance—great or poor—will ever change that.
So in those moments when severe penalties seem like a reality, take a step back. Laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. Give yourself grace.
And then keep playing the game as best you can.
What more can you ask of yourself?