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Building a healthier view on relationships

Soccer is the key to it all...WHAT?!? Keep reading...

Recently, I spent a season feeling extremely disappointed. Disappointed in people I trusted and loved, but who had hurt me deeply. Disappointed in myself for the mistakes I felt I had made in choosing the wrong people to surround myself with and honestly disappointed in God for how everything had turned out.

How do we know who belongs in our lives? Who is healthy for us? Who to trust? Who to give our heart to? How much of it to give and how to protect it against excessive brokenness?

My roommate and I spend a lot of time talking in our kitchen. She's usually cooking and I'm usually eating. It's our thing. Let’s just say if our kitchen walls could talk, they’d have many the stories to tell. One of these talks was about the idea of "teams" in life. Many authors, speakers, and even movies touch on the idea of your team in life. The idea of a team is you have your people, the ones that are there for you, like Grey's Anatomy, Meredith and Christina, “You’re my person”, type-deal.

From that conversation my mind started spinning and over the course of a week I came to write down my own “life team metaphor”, so to speak. This metaphor has helped me immensely in healing my heart from broken relationships and moving forward with smarter parameters as I form new ones.

My version of this life team metaphor was born out of my early love for soccer. In soccer, the same as every sport, there are vital elements to how the game is organized and played. Wherever soccer is played there is a league, from the pros down to AYSO. Within the league are teams, one of them being your own. Your team is comprised of your teammates, coaches, fans who come and support you during games, and even pros you look up to.

In my own mind, I've translated all of these elements into a large metaphor for relationships in my life. The main difference between the game and real-life is YOU GET TO CHOOSE how and who fit into these different elements. Let’s see how this all connect.


The league is similar to a big picture of your life. It’s all the people you interact with on a consistent basis. All the players in your league could be a part of your work, hobbies, church, school, family, etc. In life, not every person who’s in your league will be on your team, that's the obvious part of playing any sport. You have to have different teams. This means the majority of people who are in your "league of life" will be on other teams. Within your league your team has certain priorities you agree with and other teams have certain priorities you disagree with, i.e. the main point being you want to win for your team and they want to win for theirs.

Despite a passionate 7-year-old’s competitive streak that wants nothing more than to crush the other team, there’s nothing inherently bad about the other team or their priorities for the most part. Their priorities are simply different and may not support the best for your own team.

Whether it’s their distance, your gut reluctance to let them in, a past conflict that has concerned you, or simply people that only inhabit one space of your life that you work to keep separate, these are people who are in your life league, but not on your team. Their priorites are different, which means their actions (intentionally or unintentionally) or you may just be on different paths and that's okay.

One thing to note, as you read forward, is that no matter where people play into your own metaphor every person in your life is to be loved.


Out of all the people who are in your league of life you get to chose who on your team.

Your teammates are your starters, your ride, or die, people, the people on the field of your life every day. They support you wholeheartedly and you do the same for them. You rarely question each other's motives, because you both trust each other to be who you've proven yourselves to be in your relationship. Whether it’s through self-awareness and self-growth or just a natural ability, these people are usually very healthy and very good for you and you work to be the same for them. Here are some of the ways I know people are on my team, these are the people who:

  • are consistently there for you, they listen without judgment and accept you, even when you're not at your best

  • continually show loyalty and integrity in your relationship and the choices they make over what is fast, easy, or fun

  • make a continual effort to be involved with your life

  • you vibe with. These are people you should feel completely safe and secure to be your true self around

Psst...all of those things should apply to you and how you care for them as well.

These are people who can really affect your heart if they do hurt you because there are high levels of trust present. People are not perfect, everybody makes mistakes and this is going to be true for you and your your teammates as well. However, I have also found in these relationships that grace, communication and forgiveness are also highly present.

Relationships are always worth restoring and bettering as long as they’re healthy for you. If someone on your team hurts you or you hurt them, you’ve got to do the hard work of having an honest conversation, working through forgiveness and rebuilding the areas of the relationship that have been broken.


One thing every team has is a coach. Coaches are your life mentors. It’s always good to have at least one. They help assess your skills, weaknesses, encourage you through the wins, and also carry you through the hard losses. If you don’t have a coach in your life, seek one out. Typically they should have a bit more experience than you do and be able to see you “on the field” in life enough that they can help you grow as a player. Ask them for help and don’t be mad when they point out where you can grow stronger, that’s what they’re there for.

Also take this motto, have a coach, be a coach. A healthy person is able to take what they learn from coaches and learn how to be a coach to less experienced players as well. Be on the look-out for people that may need someone and don’t be afraid to go and step into their life. Be an encourager until you have earned a spot as their coach and the trust is strong enough to start talking about the hard stuff. A great coach knows when to correct, but most importantly they know how to encourage.


Hang with me here, we’ve got two last elements to consider, fan and pros. Fans are a big part of what makes the game fun. It’s way more fun to play for a crowd of cheering people than to empty stands. Plus, it’s a true mark of a game over a practice. There might be a wide variety of people you can’t fit into any of these categories, maybe it’s your extended family you don’t get to see often, your favorite barista down the street or so many other friends that come in and out of your life. These are your fans and you're probably one of their fans. You each enjoy more of a sideline part in each other's lives because of various reasons, but the important thing is you’re always there to cheer each other on.


Along with the idea of coaches is also the idea of pros. Everyone who plays a sport has a pro they look up to, admire, aspire to be like. Find a pro in your life, someone who’s doing something you want to do or becoming the person you want to become. Pros can take all shapes and forms, but the important thing is they give you a bit of kick in your step towards your future.

One last thing I’ve learned by processing this metaphor for my own life, people can move. It is totally okay to let go of unhealthy relationships, don’t ever feel bad for moving people off your team if it is no longer the best place for them to be for you or them. This is how you learn to build healthier relationships and keep watch over your heart. This can be done with grace and love for the other person, but don’t feel guilty for doing what is best for you and your own health.

As I've fit my own relationships into this life metaphor I have found tremendous peace. A peace that allows me to let the smaller hurts go because I understand people's different priorities, a peace that allows me to know which part of my world, thoughts, and emotions to share with which people, areas for my heart to find safe and secure ground. A peace that, for me personally, I know exactly what I'm looking for when I choose people to build intimate relationships with.

You might be wondering where do I start now? Where do I go from here? You might be in the middle of a disappointment too, hurt by the choices of people close to you. I’ve been there, it’s okay to evaluate your people honestly and feel upset that it’s not the team you want around you.

Or you might even wonder where you sit on other's teams and may wonder about the ways you can grow to be a healthier person as well. Looking in your own mirror is one of the hardest, but most necessary components to life and growth.

Go ahead and start searching for ALL of these things, pray for them. You need companions in life, it’s the only way you’ll make it. Jesus made us for relationships, not only to be in relationship with Him, but with each other. We just have to be careful who we share our field of life with because the people on your field at any given moment almost always directly dictate the outcome of the game.

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