Do Your Best and Let It Go

            Let’s talk about pressure and responsibility.

            Last year I was listening to a baseball broadcast on the radio.  The announcer told a story about perhaps the greatest “closer” of all time, Mariano Rivera of the Yankees.  In baseball, the job of a “closer” is to come in to pitch toward the end of the game when his team is ahead by a narrow margin and not let the other team score, “saving” the game.  Between 1995 and 2013, Rivera was asked to do that 1,115 times. He succeeded 734 times and failed only 80.[i] He was selected for the All-Star team 13 times and elected to the Hall of Fame in an unanimous vote. Rivera was once asked how he could live with the intense pressure of being a closer day after day, year after year. He said he did everything he could to throw each pitch to the best of his ability, but once it left his hand, he assumed he’d done his part – what happened next was beyond his control.

            I find this perspective to be valuable when thinking about how we live our lives.

            Take parenting.  You want the best for your children.  You provide for them, guide them, lose sleep over them, and do all you can to prepare them for life.  You will always love them and be concerned for them. But once they go out the door, they face a world beyond your control. Free will, chance happenings, and unexpected events will shape them. 

            Or how about work?  Every time I’ve left a job I cared about, I hoped the organization and people would do well.  Sometimes that happened and sometimes it did not.  I felt sadness when things did not go well, but, taking Rivera’s advice, I remind myself I gave it my best when I was there and what happened after that is beyond my control.

            The same can be true for many decisions we make, including deciding to move to someplace new or what we do with our money.  As Kierkegaard said, we tend to evaluate our lives by looking backward at the decisions we have made – after we know how it all turned out. But we did not know then what we know now.  We have to live life forward, without knowing all the facts.

            In spiritual traditions, we can find similar stories.

            Moses takes his people from bondage to within sight of the promised land, yet dies before they cross over.  But he had done all he was asked to do.

            One of Jesus’ last recorded words was, “It is finished.” How could that be, a retreat leader once asked — if he came to feed the hungry, give sight to the blind, and liberate the oppressed, so much suffering was still present in the world when he died; how can he say, “It is finished?”  The leader concluded: because the specific task God had given him to do was finished. It would be up to his followers to take the work forward.

            One of the stories about the death of Buddha describes how, in his 80s, he fell ill after eating spoiled pork.  The man who cooked the food was overcome with sorrow. But Buddha told him not to feel that way.  What had happened was a gift, because Buddha was ready to die and move into the next realm.  He left behind a vast treasury of teaching, and that was enough.

            Let’s do our best with the responsibilities we’ve been given. But let’s also recognize there is only so much we can do.  Once the ball leaves our hand, we can be at peace.


[i] For folks who care about baseball statistics, Rivera had 652 saves and 82 wins for a total of 734.  He had 80 “blown saves” and the rest were no decisions.

3 Comments

  1. patriciacorrigan22gmailcom says:

    Thank you again. Steve. Years ago a Jewish supervisor of mine quoted this from the Mishna to help me get a grip on my inflated sense of responsibility – and self importance: “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it (2:21)”.

    Like

    1. Patty,

      Wow, beautifully said. That quote’s a keeper. Thanks for sending it.

      Steve

      Like

  2. Thank you Steve! ❤️

    Like

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