Who is Keeping the Score?

The scoreboard is broken. 

Or maybe it isn’t the scoreboard but rather the score keeper. 

Quite possibly it is the whole scoring system. 

Taylor Swift really said what I am feeling best in one of her songs. “I saw the scoreboard and ran for my life.” 

That’s where I am lately. Tired of the scoreboard, the score keeper, and a broken scoring system.  

Cal asked me last week why a touchdown was 6 points. I answered honestly and told him I wasn’t sure. Someone just decided it would be that way and it stuck. In true 5 year old fashion, he questioned, “why did they get to decide?” 

It is my favorite when a child asks me a question that sends me down a philosophical rabbit hole that leads me right back to their question being my own. This particular situation ended with me asking him, “what do you think? Why did THEY get to decide?” (if you don’t know the answer to a child’s question, “what do you think?” is usually a great response.)

His response, “I don’t know” and on he went. Leaving me there to wonder on my own. A little google research gave me the evolution of the scoring system and quite honestly more questions, but not the definitive answer I wanted. There probably is one, somewhere, but that wasn’t the path my mind traveled down. Instead, I traveled the path of who decides value? I will spare you the laundry list of things that soon followed but I will tell you where I landed. With these three questions:

  • Who am I allowing to determine my value? 
  • Where am I placing value? 
  • Who am I letting run the scoreboard?

This topic has really been heavy on my heart lately. As a former athlete and a current coach’s wife, I know that score is important. However, some of us have given the wins and losses of life too much power in determining our worth. We have allowed our definition of success to be shaped by a society that shares the highlight reel and uses filters on everything. 

It feels great to win. It feels like our hard work pays off. Sometimes our effort is celebrated because we are on top! However, sometimes we work really hard and we still don’t win. When we try our hardest and lose, the world does not always celebrate our effort. What is really hard is when we try really hard, lose and then get criticized. Our success, determined only by a scoring system that is constantly changing.

When my husband and I first started dating, anytime we played a game if he was going to lose he would somehow change the rules. He would make up a new rule, change an old rule, or just change the score to fit his needs. Early on, I would laugh, accept defeat and roll my eyes at his taunting with the assurance that he and I both knew what had happened. As time went on, I got more and more frustrated.  Eventually my response became, “I am not playing with you anymore. You don’t play fair, I hardly ever get a chance to win, and even when I do you get mad and throw a fit. You steal the joy of my win by making it about you.”

I think that’s what I am ready to say to society’s scoreboard:

You don’t play fair, I hardly ever get a chance to win, and even when I do you get mad and throw a fit! 

I am done with your scoreboard.  I tried playing by your rules for too long, they change too often to measure my success. Your point value does not match my own. If I get too many points you teach people to take my points by criticizing, tearing me down and cancelling me. After you tear me down you wonder why I have given up and you decide to root for my comeback. But I mustn’t forget, there are rules for a comeback victory too. I have to remember where I came from and carry my past failures with me so that you and I don’t feel like I have taken some kind of competitive advantage.  

Your scoring system isn’t nice and it really isn’t for my good. 

Your system has turned people into commodities. Something to be traded, used up, and discarded long before their true value can be determined. Their performance dissected and criticized publicly for anyone and everyone to have an opinion about. Our opinions have become our weapons. Weapons to tear one another down, make us feel better about ourselves and protect ourselves. We have learned to use our opinions as a way of evening the score. 

We have been given a platform to express our opinions very publicly. Unfortunately, this platform has led to the quiet dehumanization of people. Screens introduced us to a world where we are free from the consequences of seeing the real human hurt our words cause other people. Instead of emotions, we see a score. A one up of sorts. The scary thing is that we are now seeing this dehumanization bleed into our lives outside of the screen.  

We cannot continue to do this to people. Acting as if somehow their status, education, income, celebrity, opposing position protects them from the heartache that comes with judgement and criticism. We assume that because they appear to have confidence they can handle our comments. We expect them to have thick skin but criticize them when their soft-heartedness does not meet our standards.

From the outside, voicing our opinions (no matter how mean) and calling it truth is just another fun element of the competitive game. But it really isn’t just a game. It is people’s lives. These are real people with real emotions making real sacrifices. 

Somewhere along the way being “the best” superseded being “our best”. The competition for our worth and our value became about our comparison to other people, organizations, and teams. The problem with that is, there will always be someone better. When we are using competition to measure our worth we are left feeling empty, even the feelings that come with winning are fleeting. Because the scoring system we are using is flawed. It leaves no real winners. It pits us against each other using one another’s success and failure as our measuring stick. Instead of being able to cheer each other on we feel compelled to dull each other’s shine so our value doesn’t decrease. 

I have told myself and my kids for a long time that competition brings out the best and the worst in each of us. This was/is an attempt at reminding myself and my kids that good people have ugly moments, but they can still be good people. This is how I teach kids about humanity. We all have shameful moments, myself included. 

Brene Brown hit the nail on the head when she said,  “What we don’t need in the midst of struggle is shame for being human.” Take some time to reflect with me. Maybe you are tired of the scoreboard too. We can do better. We are better. 

You are worthy. You have great value. Even in struggle and failure you are finding your way to the best version of yourself. 

Be nice. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. 

If the goal you have when sharing your opinion or criticism is to hurt or tear someone down, keep it to yourself. 

If you are attacking someone personally, step back and try to understand why.  Have you placed too much value in winning, being right or “being the best”? Have you lost sight of what you have to offer the world?  Has someone been mean to you and made you feel less than? Is it making you feel better to put someone else down? Are your own insecurities about being good enough causing you to lash out at other people?

I have heard too many times, “I am just an honest person, I speak the truth. If that makes me mean, then I am mean.”

I refuse to accept that. We are better than that. We are called to be better than that. We can speak truth in a way that inspires others rather than tearing them down. 

We have spent too long playing by a set of rules that will leave us feeling less than. The scoring system is broken and we deserve better. 

I may not be able to change the system or the game, but I don’t have to play by rules with which I don’t agree. Walking away from their scoring system isn’t quitting the game, it’s just us deciding that we will decide how points are awarded and how our value is measured and determined.

So here we are. Worthy, full of value, and refusing to compete against anyone but ourselves to determine our worth. Points will be awarded based upon our own values. Why should THEY get to decide our score?

The scoreboard said we lost this game…I wish I had time to tell you all the ways we won that night!

2 responses to “Who is Keeping the Score?”

  1. Yes! Yes! Yes! Thank you for such insight and for putting into words how I have been feeling lately!!


  2. Courtney Gunter this is excellent and is absolutely correct. I’ve never been competitive but in life I still found myself being scored by some unknown scorekeeper. I decided many years ago that God determines my value & worth. He says I am His and He loves me. That is more than enough. I love you. Bless you for sharing. 💕


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