When Push Comes To Shove


This weekend was a bad one for NFL coaches.  I didn’t think that it could get much worse than coaches breaking legs AND tearing patellar tendons, but then the Detroit/San Francisco game ended in something that looked even more uncomfortable than Kirk Cameron’s most recent birthday party.

During the post game handshake Jim Harbaugh, the 49er’s rookie head coach, was so excited about his upstart team’s last second win over the previously undefeated Lions, that he pulled a real no-brainer.

In a jubilant sprint, he gave losing head coach Jim Schwartz of Detroit a “hand slap-chest bump” handshake- like the two of them were frat bro’s celebrating at a kegger.

Jim Schwartz didn’t like it.

While Harbaugh’s over expressive and self-congratulatory choice of post-game greeting was clearly over the top, how he ended the “handshake” may have been even worse.  At the speed both men were moving, there was going to be an inevitable collision.

Harbaugh did the old “side step and push around” maneuver that you do when cutting your way through a theme park crowd.

Jim Schwartz really didn’t like that.

As Harbaugh rushed to resume his “all-over-the-field” celebration, Schwartz looked back and “F-bombed” him to little effect.  When he realized how little impact his “fudging” of Harbaugh accomplished, he ran after him, applying the amount of body and language he felt was adequate to express his frustration.

Jim Harbaugh didn’t like that.

But this is where the paths of the two Jims diverge.  Whereas Schwartz heaped confrontation on top of Harbaugh’s cluelessness, Harbaugh didn’t want any part of Schwartz’ escalation.  It took a field full of players, coaches, and security personnel to keep Coach Schwartz away from Coach Harbaugh.

Schwartz didn’t much like that either.

At the press conference he pointed out that he didn’t like getting cussed at or shoved… even though he responded with an incredibly disproportionate amount of cussing and shoving.  Harbaugh on the other hand admitted that the offense was “on me” and that his “handshake needed some work”.

Because of his reactions Jim Schwartz, the wronged party, ends up looking the worse for wear in a situation that he should have garnered a lot of sympathy from.  Monday morning’s headlines could have been about Harbaugh’s immaturity and Schwartz’s diplomatic handling of the disrespect.  It could have been a story about an older guy showing a younger guy the meaning of class.  Instead, Schwartz gets to look like a cuckold being run off of Jerry Springer’s stage… to a much larger audience.

In life, we don’t get to pick what happens to us.  We only get to pick our response.

Other people have choices about how they are going to treat us.  They are free to be disrespectful or friendly and we are free to respond in kind or with grace.  How we choose to respond reveals what kind of leader we really are.

Do we represent ourselves?

Because standing up for ourselves reveals who the most important person in the organization is.

Do we represent the people we lead?

Because standing up for them means maintaining dignity and honor.

Do we represent something greater than all of this?

Because God has a different standard than mankind.

Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! Luke 17:1

Jesus makes it clear that life is going to be filled with offensive moments.  It is impossible to be alive and not have our sensibilities offended, the key is whether or not we are the people causing the offenses.

Jim Schwarz had every right to be offended at Jim Harbaugh’s immaturity, but now we all get to be offended by his.  Each of us is faced with situations where we are offended by the carelessness, insensitivity, or capriciousness of others.  When we respond in kind, we step into a lifestyle that Jesus pronounces woe upon.

So what kind of life are you living?

What kind of leadership are you presenting?

What offense are you unwilling to forgive?

Each offense is an opportunity for us to grow as we respond in righteous ways.  When we understand this we see that offense is an opportunity to learn and grow in many important leadership capacities:

How resilient are you becoming?

Are you becoming better at confrontation?

Is this still all about you?

My question is whether or not it’s possible to settle things on our own, stand up for ourselves, and make sure everyone sees how we’ve been wronged without making ourselves buffoons, shaming our organizations, and embarrassing our God?

No matter how offended we are, we always have a choice about the kind of life that we are going to live, the way that we will choose to confront, and the message that we are going to send about offense.

3 Responses to “When Push Comes To Shove”

  1. Jay T. October 19, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

    Well said Jon!

    Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less often.

    • Jon October 19, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

      Right on Jay, right on.

  2. Mike October 19, 2011 at 9:45 pm #

    Great stuff Jon!

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