During my seasons as an assistant coach for my daughter’s softball team, one phrase you will hear me say quite often is, “I play for my self. I play for my team.” Ask any of the girls on the team how often I said this and they most likely would respond by saying, “all the time.” But what does it mean to play for self and team? Let us spend some time breaking it down. We will start with, “I play for my self.”
Myself vs. My Self
Most adults understand this distinction, however, to a 10 year old girl the wording sounds nearly identical. For the sake of explaining things, here is an easy separation of the two:
- “Myself” refers to when a person is speaking in the first person and is used in place of ‘me’ or ‘I’ respectively.
- “My self” is used when you are referring to the “physiological you” or the essence of who you are as an individual.
I play for my self
One of the first questions I was asked when I began saying this to the girls was, “That seems selfish. Why would you not just say ‘I play for my team?'” The explanation is both simple and complex as are most things worth doing in life. When the girls would practice I would often hear parents, other coaches, the girls constantly say “you’re a team, play like one.” Most all the girls thought they knew what they were being told and tried their best to play like whatever “playing like a team” meant to them. Unfortunately, they did not understand why they were playing as individuals much less a team.
When I asked the girls if any of them knew what I meant when I said, “I play for my self,” no one had a solid response, if they had a response at all. This is how I explained it to them:
- I play for my self.
- I play to better my self.
- I play because I have the God-given ability to play.
- I play because I love this game.
- I play to push my self to achieve more than I currently can do.
- I play because I am proud and I respect myself.
- I play to build toughness and tenacity.
- I play because I want to play, not because I have to play.
- I play because I am not afraid to fail, and I will fail, this is certain.
- I play to not give up, ever.
- I play for my self.
For one of the girls, when she would pitch if she ever found herself down in the count or struggling she would whisper the words, “I play for my self. I play for my team,” over and over. Some times it did not appear to help much, but most times you could see a drastic improvement in her pitching.
These are not softball statements, they are life statements.
Even though those simple statements pushed the girls to perform better on the field, they also provided help off the field. While they understood them to be softball related, the words transcend the fences of the field and work their way into every facet of one’s life. These are not softball statements, they are life statements.
For the girls, they use them when they are at school. I go to school because I want to learn, not because I have to go. At home they say things such as I clean to build toughness and tenacity and to take care of what is mine. With their friends they say, I make choices everyday, but I will not be afraid to fail, because I will learn from the failure and better my self for the next time.
I find myself uttering those words when I am at work. I work because I have the God-given ability to work. I work to push my self to achieve more than I can currently do. I use them at home with my family. I parent because I love being a dad and want to be the best dad I can be for my kids. I husband because I love my wife and our marriage and I will not give up, ever. I use them when I volunteer at church. I volunteer because I love people. I volunteer because I am proud of the relationship I have with Jesus Christ my savior.
I’d like to spend a moment on the spiritual side of “I play for my self.” God has uniquely designed us to be unique. We all have different skills, talents, desires, and so on. That’s what makes us human. However, one commonality that unites believers is that we do not find our identity in ourselves. We find our identity in our Heavenly Father. So when you apply the words “I play for my self” to the spiritual side of your life, what you are in fact saying is, “I play for my self in Christ, because no one except The Father can provide my happiness, self-worth, skills, talents, desires. I play to better my self in Him. I play because through Him all things are possible.”
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”Philippians 4:13
When was the last time you were honest with yourself and who you play for every day? Do you play for “myself” or do you play for “my self”? Make sure you understand the distinction between the two versions. Remember, “myself” caters to no one except you and your selfishness. Is that how you want to be known? The other plays for my self to be the best me in everything I do and to be the best person I can be to those around me. This, for me, is what I strive for every day – “I play for my self.”