|The Rolla version of Monopoly. We framed this for one of our local banks recently.|
Today it occurred to me that I have had more than my share of relationships with people who, while willing to occasionally accept defeat in the game, never really stop playing. There seems to be something that compels some people to always be sizing up a situation in order to claim a victory -- or at least something they seem to identify as a victory -- even when no one else is interested in their antics. Think Charlie Sheen and his "winning." This makes for tiresome relationships. But what do you do when you're in a long-term relationship with someone like this?
What, really, is winning in these sorts of games? Getting your way? Achieving some sort of secret vengeance that has been set as the prize? Maybe winning is staying in the midst of turmoil and keeping others from moving on without your input? Is it control? Is it having the most of whatever "more" you're wanting? Is winning merely ensuring that others lose? What in the world is winning?
When I was young I loved playing relationship games. I liked doing some unexpected thing to see what kind of response I would get and then doing something else that I would dream up almost as a dare to myself to see what would happen next. It's possible that many children and adolescents behave this way. I played these games into my early-to-mid-twenties or so then grew tired of it. People's reactions aren't really all that surprising after all. Most people just trudge along the best that they can. Watching to see how someone will cope with your craziness becomes tedious.
Sometimes it was fun though.
When I was driving crazy and speeding and was inevitably pulled over, if I jumped out of the car and strutted around as a feisty nineteen year old, would I get a ticket?
When I was driving crazy and speeding and was inevitably pulled over, if I sat in the car and cried in such a way that I could barely see to retrieve my license, would I get a ticket?
When I was driving crazy and speeding and was inevitably pulled over, if I pretended I had no idea I had been going so fast but thought I had been pulled over, instead, for having a burned-out tail-light, would I get a ticket?
Looking back, things like that were incredibly stupid. I don't remember doing too many things that would have actually harmed someone, and I don't remember doing too many things that were just outright mean to others, but I imagine there was sometimes some collateral damage along the way that I was completely and utterly oblivious to.
As we move through our lives, we sometimes come to the realization that we are indeed the product of long-term collateral damage by the game players in our lives. Sometimes, its so continuous that it doesn't even occur to us how strange these ongoing situations really are. We just keep showing up and, even though we don't want to, we play the game. Everyone knows about the game. Everyone is forced to play. And no one knows how to end the game.
Sometimes my grandson will decide to repeat every word I say, despite my insistence that he knock it off.
"Stop it, Micah," I will say.
"Stop it, Micah," he will mock.
"I mean it, Micah," I say
"I mean it, Micah," he says.
Micah is playing a game and I can't make him stop.
Of course, he's a little boy and that game is right on target for a kid his age.
But what do we do when we are mocked by others in our lives in a continuous game that never ends? Mocked. Criticized. Undermined. Condemned. Taken advantage of. Lied to. Lied about. All part of their game... their lifelong game... Their lifelong strategy in their efforts to be "winning."
Maybe, like in Monopoly, we can arrange to finish the game. Maybe we begin by giving up what's yours so they can take it. You mortgage your properties one by one. You turn over your assets and stop worrying about recovering them. You give up things you might once have cared about because playing such a game for such a long time eventually steals everything of value. Any price would be worth it if you could only end the tediousness of the game.