Comer: Pressing forward through the bad days of life
The first day of school was last week. When I picked up my sons after the first day, I asked them how everything went. My 8-year-old said simply, “Bad.”
After some prodding, he finally revealed to me the reason for his disappointment. He did something incorrectly during a science project that he felt caused the other students to think he was dumb.
I tried my best to help him but didn’t exactly know how to cheer him up. After we got home, I started watching a baseball game, during which there was an inexplicable blunder by one of the players. In an at-bat that lasted over 10 pitches, a result that comes from working really hard at the plate for a favorable result, the batter lined a flyball to left field. The left fielder came running in and dove in an attempt to make the catch, and for a second, he had the ball in his glove. As he hit the ground, however, he couldn’t maintain control of the ball and it popped out. The batter, not paying attention to the play carefully enough, didn’t see that the ball had been dropped. When he reached first base, he turned around and started heading back to the dugout. This resulted in him being called out. I couldn’t believe it. It was something I had truly never seen before. How could a player make such an egregious mistake?
Suddenly sensing an opportunity, I called my son into the room to show him the replay. “See?” I told him. “Everyone is able to watch this player and look at this mistake he made. Everyone makes mistakes. You think your mistake was the worst ever and that people think you’re dumb because of it, but here’s a grown adult in a highly visible profession and look at the mistake he made.”
I don’t know if the little pep talk helped, but it seemed like he became a little more cheerful.
Sports has a way of reminding us that mistakes we make really aren’t as big of a problem as we might think in the moment.
When I was a kid, I remember watching a Super Bowl between the Dallas Cowboys and the Buffalo Bills. During the game, one of the Dallas players was returning a fumble for a touchdown. As he was about to cross the goalline, he stuck the ball out to his right in an apparent attempt to celebrate. Unfortunately for him, there was a Bills player right behind him who took advantage of the opportunity and knocked the ball out of his grasp before he scored. It didn’t turn out to be a big deal because the Cowboys won anyway, but the very next year, Dallas was playing a Thanksgiving game against the Miami Dolphins. It’s one of the more memorable Thanksgiving games ever for a couple reasons: 1) It was played in the snow, and 2) The way that it ended. With about 15 seconds left, Miami attempted a go-ahead field goal. The kick was blocked, but then, the same player who the year before had the ball knocked loose before he reached the endzone, shockingly touched the ball, making it live and able to be recovered by the Dolphins, which it was. Gifted a second chance at the field goal, Miami didn’t miss and won the game.
In a humorous twist, although maybe not so humorous for the player responsible for the mistake, I heard a story about him receiving a letter from a child after the Thanksgiving game that told him not to worry about the mistake because the previous year during the Super Bowl there was a guy who was going in to score a touchdown and had the ball knocked out just before he scored, so don’t worry about it because people make mistakes. The child obviously didn’t know it was the same player, and I can only imagine how the player must have felt reading that letter.
The truth is, bad days happen, and nobody is immune.
When I think of bad days, I think of the story in the Book of Mormon of Nephi breaking his bow.
“And it came to pass that as I, Nephi, went forth to slay food, behold, I did break my bow, which was made of fine steel; and after I did break my bow, behold, my brethren were angry with me because of the loss of my bow, for we did obtain no food.” (1 Nephi 16:18)
To add some context to this misfortune, Nephi and his family members had just traveled many days before pitching their tents. I can imagine the weariness they must have felt and the desire to, as my grandfather-in-law says frequently, “sit down and enjoy life.” I can imagine the complaining Nephi’s brothers, Laman and Lemuel, were perhaps engaged in throughout the time they had been journeying. Then Nephi breaks his bow. How disappointing and infuriating the situation must have been.
Laman and Lemuel’s reaction was, of course, no surprise. They reacted how one would have expected them to react given their history. But someone else started to complain: Nephi’s father, Lehi.
“And it came to pass that we did return without food to our families, and being much fatigued, because of their journeying, they did suffer much for the want of food.
“And it came to pass that Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael did begin to murmur exceedingly, because of their sufferings and afflictions in the wilderness; and also my father began to murmur against the Lord his God; yea, and they were all exceedingly sorrowful, even that they did murmur against the Lord.” (1 Nephi 16:19-20)
What a shock to Nephi’s system this must have been. Surely, he was used to his brothers complaining. But now even his father had succumbed. It really paints quite a picture of how discouraging this situation must have been. Could there have been a worse day for Nephi? To think of all the trials he had faced, at least he had the assurance that his father was his ally in staying close to the Lord, but now even his father was murmuring.
Nevertheless, Nephi showed resilience.
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did speak much unto my brethren, because they had hardened their hearts again, even unto complaining against the Lord their God.
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did make out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow; wherefore, I did arm myself with a bow and an arrow, with a sling and with stones. And I said unto my father: Whither shall I go to obtain food?” (1 Nephi 16:22-23)
Lehi asked the Lord and was subsequently chastened for his murmuring, “insomuch that he was brought down into the depths of sorrow” (1 Nephi 16:25), but then Nephi was directed where to go.
“And it came to pass that I did slay wild beasts, insomuch that I did obtain food for our families.
“And it came to pass that I did return to our tents, bearing the beasts which I had slain; and now when they beheld that I had obtained food, how great was their joy! And it came to pass that they did humble themselves before the Lord, and did give thanks unto him.” (1 Nephi 16:31-32)
Nephi had perhaps the worst day of his journey through the wilderness, but he overcame it because he looked not at what happened but how he could make the situation better once things went wrong. This is the lesson I want my children and everyone else to know. Terrible moments happen to everyone. We’ll all have bad days. But there’s always a way forward, and with the Lord’s help, we can be shown that way.
Contact Ryan Comer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @rbcomer8388 and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/