Comer: Trials provide opportunities to show love to each other
At last April’s general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Russell M. Nelson, president of the church, spoke of a concept he had been reminded of while watching a basketball game. I always pay attention to his words, but given my own personal affinity for sports, I have to admit, my interest was particularly piqued.
Over the years, I, too, have been reminded of spiritual concepts while viewing various athletic competitions. Such an occurrence happened nearly two weeks ago as I watched the AFC Championship football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cincinnati Bengals. It was a terrific game, certainly worthy of all the hype that it had received beforehand, and it appeared that it might go to overtime.
Then, in an instant, most of the drama was sucked out of the contest when a flag was thrown. Cincinnati linebacker Joseph Ossai pushed Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes after Mahomes ran out of bounds, resulting in a 15-yard penalty that set the Chiefs up for what ended up being a game-winning 45-yard field goal.
Ossai clearly understood the gravity of the mistake he had made. After the ball sailed over the crossbar and between the uprights, all but sealing Kansas City’s victory, Ossai was shown going to the bench, sitting down, putting his helmet on and putting his head down. He was shown a few more times on the sideline, seemingly crying.
It was such a tough moment to watch, not just because of Ossai’s reaction, but because I knew that everything he had done to that point in the contest would be forgotten by most. On the play before the penalty, he pressured Mahomes and forced him into an errant throw, a play that earned praise from the CBS commentators.
“Again, who else? Joseph Ossai, second year player out of Texas,” said Jim Nantz, the play-by-play announcer.
“Called his name a lot today,” added Tony Romo, the color commentator. “You said it earlier. He’s played an outstanding game.”
CBS has received criticism for continuing to show Ossai on the sideline as the Chiefs celebrated the victory, but I am glad cameras continued to show him because teammates were shown going over to him to console him. We all saw the play and his reaction to it, and thankfully, we were also able to see how his teammates supported him.
It was later reported that in the locker room, a teammate helped Ossai answer questions from the media. It was also reported that a teammate saw Ossai standing in the hallway crying and told him that one play didn’t decide the game, that plenty of plays could have been made that weren’t. That was followed by a number of teammates approaching Ossai and encouraging him.
Sometimes we deal with situations that make us wonder why. Why do I have to go through this pain? What is the point of it all? I’d be surprised if Ossai hasn’t been wondering about this himself, if not frequently. Why did such a great effort have to be marred like that? I don’t know if I have the perfect answer, but one thing that is clear to me is that trials provide an opportunity for others to show love. Don’t we all need to practice that? Isn’t it one of Jesus’ most prominent teachings?
“Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
The truth is, when we see others suffering, it’s hard not to embrace them and do all we can to help them. Even if we have hard feelings, our hearts are softened. In the aftermath of this football game, I was listening to a former coach of one of my favorite sports teams discuss a moment in his coaching career when one of his players made a costly mistake that directly resulted in a loss. The coach said he was told after the game that the player was in the training room and that he wasn’t handling the situation very well. The coach went into the room and when the player saw him he broke down and started to cry. The coach, who admitted that he had been angry, couldn’t help but hug the player and console him. Reflecting on the moment, the coach said that it was good for him because otherwise he would have done something dumb.
As I look back at the trials that I’ve faced, I can’t say that I’m happy that I’ve had to face those trials, but I can say that I am grateful for the kindness that has been shown to me as a result. I’m grateful that my trials have provided people an opportunity to show love. Specifically, I’ve been continually impressed as I’ve seen how so many people have shown love to me and my children since the passing of my wife and their mother. This past Christmas, some friends delivered a number of presents. It’s not the first Christmas that we’ve been blessed in that way. Others have shown love by just being available to talk to.
I have a really good friend from when I was in college at BYU. We have remained friends over the years, and the day my wife passed away, he texted me to tell me he was available any time for the next week if I wanted to go out and do anything. He didn’t try to say anything inspirational. He just wanted to let me know that he was there for me in case I needed someone to be around. Guess what? I took him up on the offer that night. This is what loving your neighbor as yourself looks like. You don’t have to say or do anything special. You just have to be especially present. Just like Ossai’s teammates were especially present for him. And, quite honestly, the love that has been shown to me has inspired me to show that to others. I wish I was better at it, but I can say with certainty that I’m better than I used to be.
Following the AFC Championship, Ossai spoke of the impact that his teammates’ support was having on him.
“It means the world to me,” he told reporters. “These guys mean a lot to me. We come in every single day and we work hard for each other. And to know that they have my back, it’s giving me peace right now for sure.”
For the sake of peace, for those around us as well as for ourselves, I hope we can all do a better job at capitalizing on the opportunities we have to show love for those around us.
Contact Ryan Comer at email@example.com.