What is it in us that wants others to gawk at our achievements, desire us physically, long for our affection, lust for our bodies, shutter at our disapproval, or bend beneath our will?
We want people to think we’re pretty, good looking, badass, smart, funny, cool, fun, sexy, hot, and we really want people to envy us.
In short, I think we all want people to worship us. It’s a seductive pull that’s linked with sinful pride. Pride was the first sin in the garden of eden, it’s what caused Lucifer to rebel against God to “be like the most High”, and it causes us to gravitate towards self-exultation throughout our life.
I’ve struggled with this desire to have people worship me in odd ways. I’ve done some thinking, and I want to tell you a story…..
Since I was a little boy, I’ve struggled with the temptation of lifting myself above other people, rather than humbly serving them, and lifting them up.
I want recognition, I want praise, I want everyone to know it’s my idea, I want people to think I’m the smartest, and I want the glory! I want other people to pale in comparison to me, which is an evil way to think.
It’s taken me decades to be transformed into a new creation, and to have God’s Holy Spirit unveil some of the unhealthy and ungodly attitudes, thoughts, and perspectives I’ve been plagued with.
I want to tell you a story about how my successful athletic career was like a trojan horse for the destructive mentality of self-exultation.
My Successful Athletic Career was a Trojan Horse for Pride:
I was relentlessly bullied for my size
I was a 3rd grader. As I sat on our pale blue carpet watching television, I remember the doorbell ringing. I ran down the steps and saw that it was one of the kids from the neighborhood that I’d had kind of a love/hate relationship with.
He invited me to come down the street to our friend Jimmy’s house because He said that they were getting everybody together to play.
My heart fluttered a little bit, because up to this point, almost every kid that lived around me had been bullying me pretty badly, in that sinister self-serving manner.
Most of them would be really nice to me when they wanted a friend to play with one-on-one. They would come to my house and want to play, to which I would pretty much always oblige. Whether we’d play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mario Brothers 2 on my Nintendo, or trade football cards, these kids wanted to spend time with me and be my friend, particularly when it was just us.
But when there’d be another kid, suddenly a new thing became fun for them, teasing Me about my size.
When I first moved to the neighborhood in kindergarten, the three or five kids I met were great friends to me. I’m not sure when making fun of me became such a big deal, but I know it started on the playground and football fields during recess at school.
For some reason, the fact that I was about 40% taller and heavier than the other kids became fodder for the mean kids to tease me. And these kids were unmerciful in their attacks, and there wasn’t much I could do or say as and they’d revel in the glory associated with verbally tearing someone else down.
The kids started to call me Tubbo, because they told me I was fat. I suddenly had to deal with a constant threat of some pretty terrible bullying, at any time, which hurt me deeply.
After this started on the playground, the kids that had been my friends for years, started bullying me whenever they weren’t one-on-one with me.
I’ll never forget how I came home and wept almost everyday during my second and third grade years. IN fact, as I write this, it’s causing me to tear up, because it’s a particular pain that I’ve battled with for many years. My Dad would come home from work, and He’d lay down in my bed with me, and just reassure Me as I wept into my pillow. The first three years of school were filled with such an uneasy feeling because out of nowhere, my day could be interrupted with random terrorist bully attacks, and a crowd of kids feeding the bully with laughs, head nods, and inaction.
I’d been experiencing years of pain, which was particularly devastating because most of the kids that I’d built friendships with were being two-faced backstabbers. They would get especially mean and their attack frequency would increase whenever they needed to fill up their own self confidence. Their need to puff themselves up often came because each one of them had an absent father, a broken home, and were hurt by divorce. The kids that hurt me, were definitely kids that were hurt. The meanest kids were always the ones who had the most horrific stuff going on in their life, while my parents laid a strong foundation of love, faith, care, and respect.
My bullies need to puff themselves up often came because each one of them had an absent father
So amidst this pain, having my friend ring my doorbell to invite me over to Jimmy’s house was awesome, and I was excited that the group had found it in their hearts to want to invite me over to play.
I went and asked my Mom if I could play at Jimmy’s house, she wanted to know who was all over there and wondered if Jimmy’s parents would be home. I told her that I didn’t know, so she said I had to stay outside the house rather than play inside. I reluctantly said ok, and dashed into the garage to jump on my bike.
I remember peddling fast with the anticipation of getting at some fun, then as I pulled up I noticed things were a little weird.
Only two of the promised 5-7 kids were outside. They had met me halfway on their bikes and were telling me how I needed to come into the garage where they were playing. I told them that if the garage was open, I’d be able to, because my Mom didn’t want me to go in Jimmy’s house today (Jimmy’s step-dad was MEAN and there’s way more to write about this situation).
I pulled up and the two escorts told me that I had to go into the garage through the front door, because the garage door had to stay shut. My heart sank a little bit because I knew that it meant playing with them, meant I’d have to disobey my Mom, something I really didn’t like doing because of my conscience.
So i pulled my bike up, and asked them if they’d be willing to open up the garage so I could play. I faintly remember the two guys on their bikes standing next to me, arguing about why I “just needed to go in the front door and into the garage”. When I protested over and over, they suddenly yelled “GET HIM”.
They opened up the garage door, and Jimmy stepped out of the front door holding a stainless steel cooking pot with two hands. About four other kids that were in 5th and 6th grade (I was in 2nd I think) came running out of the garage with super soaker squirt guns.
I jumped on my bike and I slowly started to pedal because I wasn’t sure if this was a joke or if they were really going to just shoot me with water. I wouldn’t care about getting wet, because even if it’s mean, I didn’t really care about an impromptu water gun attack. The thing that caused me to start to panic was the fact that Jimmy was walking toward me with this stainless steel cooking pot, which He was trying to steady as He headed in my direction. That pot obviously had something in it that Jimmy really didn’t want to spill on himself, and by the way He was carrying it, I knew that it wasn’t just regular water.
By now, the kids with the super soakers were within 15 feet of me, and they started to squirt me. As they did, I realized that what they were shooting at me wasn’t water, but urine. I started to yell at them “are you seriously squirting pee at me? Did you pee in those squirt guns?” They started to yell at me, and calling me names. Then a total of about 7 kids were encroaching as I started peddling away with all my might.
Jimmy got within about 15 feet of me, and as a last-ditch effort, He flung the contents of the cooking pan at me. Steam went puffing into the air as the boiling hot urine was hit with the coolness of the atmosphere. I realized that Jimmy had boiled urine and had intended to dump it on me. Hardly a drip from the pan hit me, but the super soakers had gotten pee all over me.
The biggest, oldest kid had been sprinting after me on foot while I biked, and He screamed something at me as I finally pulled out of His reach. I really thought He was going to rip me off my bike and throw me to the ground.
I biked straight to my house and I’ll never forget how that rejection felt. Looking back I realized that my main emotion was sadness rather than anger. I always hesitated fighting back because I really enjoyed playing with each of these kids, and I knew that they’d be back the next day to be my “friend”.
My life was marked by an unending pit in my stomach, loathing the next verbal attacks which happened only when there was a crowd.
While I was bullied incessantly because I was big, the bullies always had the problem that I was quite dangerous material. If they teased, they always had to run away fast because if I got my paws on them, and I wanted to, I could literally tackle them, jack them with a push to the chest, squeeze the life out of them, and pretty much crush them by getting on top of them. This meant that only the little fast guys and kids that could throw well, would continue being jerks to me.
Not only did the kids bully me about my size, but the most fun thing to do during recess was to participate in the all-school (boys) two-handed touch football games out on the field next to the playground. We played football every single day during recess, well at least every other boy did.
I’ll never forget, each captain would start picking teams and they would intentionally never pick me, and they would tell me I couldn’t play. This went on every day for about three or four weeks until I got the message that they wouldn’t involve me. The kids were brutal about it “your too fat to play football! you’re too slow and you suck at running!”
I believed their lies, and truly believed that I wasn’t worthy of playing football because I was too fat, too slow, and was such a complete and utter failure.
But then something happened……
By the third grade, we were all so into football that the beginning of the Rosemount Area Athletic Association’s tackle football program was legendary. Third grade was the first year that we could play, and every single boy that had a pulse was signed up for it.
I remember asking my parents, and they told Me I could definitely play.
When I told Jimmy, He told me He wasn’t sure if they’d let me play because I was too fat and slow. I remember feeling the most uneasy I’d ever felt about something in my entire life.
The first step was to get fitted for football gear. My Dad took me out on an early Saturday morning to get fitted for gear. It was at a random storage shed out in an industrial park in Rosemount and the place was musty, filled with every single 3rd, 4th, and 5th grader in the city, and the sun was shining. This was the start of one of the most embarrassing things of my entire life (up to that point).
First off, they had me try on pants. “What size do you where?” asked the guy. “The biggest ones you got!” my Dad shouted. I blushed and looked down in despair. They threw out the pants, and the guy told me to “pull em on to see if they fit”. As I tried to pull up the pants, it was quickly apparent they would not fit at all – not even close. “Well that’s the biggest pair we got!” the guy said, and He sent me to the next line.
Then came the ceremony with the shoulder pads – but the same thing happened. They handed me the biggest pair they had, and I couldn’t even get them over my head.
Last was the helmet. They made me try and pull on the biggest helmet about 4 different times with different padding inside of it. Each time they nearly ripped my ears off as my Dad and the coach pushed. pulled, and wrestled to get the helmet onto my skull, but No helmet fit me.
The coaches told me I had to wait till the following day when they would be handing out equipment to the older kids at the High School. So we went home without any pads.
Later that Day, Jimmy, and the gang all had their gear on and where playing out in His front yard. I was so mad that I couldn’t even talk to them, they all laughed at me and teased me because they’d heard I was too big for everything they tried on me.
“Tubbo! What did you think was gonna happen?”
I went to the High School fitting room, scared that they’d never find stuff that fit me. I was pretty encouraged that they found me pants and shoulder pads, but the white helmets they kept trying weren’t fitting at all.
Finally, after none of the volunteer coaches knew what to do, the man in charge showed up. He stepped forward wearing all Rosemount football garb, and He looked tough. “Robbie Satrom?” He barked out, “Come here you big horse”, and He walked me into a back room. This was coach Tim Conboy, the head coach of the black team and the defensive coordinator for the varsity football team, I was flabbergasted. He sized up my head, walked back into a dark hallway filled with gear, and He came back and said “here, this one’s gonna fitchy’a”. It was one of the blue rosemount varsity helmets – I was completely amazed. They put it on my head and it fit absolutely perfect! Coach Conboy gave me an encouraging pat on the shoulder and we headed out of the building.
My Dad and I drove home, and I was super excited to show the gang my helmet which I thought was freaking AWESOME! As I showed it to them, they were kind of quiet about it, and pretty much ignored it. I was glad I finally had equipment that fit, but I was terrified about the first day of football practice because I was convinced that my inability to run long distances, and my comparatively slow speed, meant they would kick me off the team.
Before we got put into teams or anything, we had a week long training camp.
We entered into the training camp where the coaches were running drills and teaching us the basics of the game. I remember some of the kids running through the drills super fast, hitting the bags hard, and I felt completely worthless.
After that week of camp, we were supposed to find out what team we would be on during weekend. Jimmy got drafted almost right away on friday, to the “black team”, which He informed me was the best team because it was the team that the varsity football coach would be coaching and His son would play on. Jimmy went on and on about these kids named Tim Conboy and Jake Del Pino – who were the toughest and meanest football players in Rosemount.
Friday passed, and I received no phone call. On Saturday, I called one of my other friends to see if He had been drafted to a team yet, and He told me He had. All 5 of my closest buddies got drafted that Saturday. As I rode my bike around the neighborhood checking in on them, I’d keep biking past my house to stick my head in the door and ask my parents if I’d gotten a phone call; but there was nothing.
Saturday evening came and went, and then Sunday started up. We went to Church as we did every Sunday, and I returned with great anticipation to a voicemail or something; but again, there was nothing.
That’s when I rode my bike over to Jimmy’s house, and He started to tell me that He heard I was too fat to play, and the coaches were trying to figure out how to tell me that I couldn’t play football.
I was absolutely sick. I wanted to throw up. I was so sad, but I didn’t dare show any weakness to Jimmy.
It wasn’t until late Sunday that I finally got a call to tell me I had been put on the yellow team. My dad thanked the man on the phone, and I quick called Jimmy to tell Him.
Jimmy immediately told me “the yellow team is the worst team and that that’s where they put guys like me. My heart sank again, but I knew not to believe everything Jimmy said, but His comments consistently caused me to frame things up in an unhealthy manner.
Even if you know not to believe a bully, their comments can cause you to frame things up in an unhealthy manner
First Day of Football Practice:
The day finally arrived for practice! The day I would finally meet my coach, my teammates, and have my very first tackle football experience. I was mortified with fear, and I was physically sick to my stomach.
I remember that putting on my gear was pretty easy, and I couldn’t stop laughing about the nut-cup. After gearing up, we jumped in my mom’s car and headed to the school. It took us about 10 minutes to get to the school where practice would take place, and when we pulled up, my mom got out of the car and said “alright Rob, let’s go!”.
She got out of the car, but I froze.
She stooped down, and peaked her head back into the door, and told Me “come on Rob, it’s gonna to be FUN! You’re gonna to love it!” But I just stared down into the floor and cried.
I was so scared of failing. I believed all the things that every kid had told me about myself, and I was convinced that I was about to face the most devastating rejection of my life up to this point.
My mom got back in the car and tried to comfort Me, I think I might remember there being some prayer involved, and she even told me I didn’t have to go if I didn’t want to. But I just sunk into the seat even more, I wanted nothing to do with this, and I told my mom I didn’t want to play anymore.
By this time, the coach had noticed that I wasn’t coming out of the car. Most of the team was already there and checked in. I was pretty much the last kid, which made it even worse for me.
I’ll never forget this moment.
Coach Haugee came up about 20 yards from my car and yelled “Are you Robbie?”. Although I was scared, I wouldn’t ever subject myself to letting a situation get even worse after attention was already called to me, so I stepped out of the car.
As I walked up, coach Haugee blew His whistle. “Everybody come here for a minute! Come here, come here, gather up!”
Coach Haugee put His arm around me, faced the team, and pulled His hat on backwards as He shouted:
“everybody, this here is Robbie Satrom, He’s a football player and He’s gonna be one of the best football players around!, and He’s going to help us win football games. I want you all to help welcome Him because we’re lucky to have Him. You see Robbie here was THE number-one-draft pick of the entire football program. Every single team wanted Him, but damnit, He’s on our team! so lets Give him a round of applause”
I was stunned.
They all cheered and clapped for me. Every fear subsided and I jogged out to them and they all gave me high fives. The coach blew his whistle and we were off to our first practice.
This moment in my life was both a blessing and a curse. This gave me a sense of purpose, but it wasn’t necessarily a Godly purpose because my identity started to be found in my ability to not only prove to the bullies that I could play football, but now I wanted to smash the mouths of every kid that had ever been mean to me.
It was funny, the yellow team had some of the nicest kids on it and I loved each one of the them. Our coach was an absolute nut for smash-mouth football. He toughened us up so hard, punished us so much, made us run up-downs for every single mistake, but I absolutely loved it.
While most football coaches were kind of smart and they’d help their kids understand the game, coach Haugee was helping us get disciplined, tough, and understand the fundamentals of darn-good football.
I remember that when He’d catch the ball carriers running too high rather than running low, He’d blow His whistle and scream at ‘em “Start walking like a duck dammit!” and He’d send them “duck walking” around the baseball diamond while He’d make the rest of us do up-downs till they returned (which are just burpees done really hard). Coach Haugee was tough, and I loved what a badass He was.
Not only that, but He we ended every practice with hitting drills, where we would “crack some skulls” and go one on one. This was my favorite drill because not only was I big and strong, but I could really pop kids with my hits and nothing was more satisfying than beating someone.
I definitely needed work, and Haugee rode me really hard. He didn’t let me get away with anything, and He was constantly punishing me for mistakes by running and doing hundreds and hundreds of up-downs.
Coach Haugee a great coach because He cared about each of us and he was really tough. He yelled and swore at us all the time, which might seem a little extreme for a bunch of third grade boys, but it helped us all develop greatly. I can still see the white foam of spit welling up in the corners of His lips while His backwards cap clinched his sun-worn skull “Run HARDER! RUN HARDER! DON’T BE A WUSSY!” He was probably a little over the top, but He was helping us develop grit as well as any other coach I ever had.
Coach Haugee was trying to make us tough, and the number one thing He’d do to help with that, was end practice with a game of what He called “Smear the Queer”. He was no bigot, this language was just part of the culture back then unfortunately.
We would circle the whole team up in a large ring and place two players inside the middle. One would carry the ball and the other would tackle, and you had 20 seconds to stay on your feet.
This drill was an all-out war and we were unusually violent little 3rd graders. All of us refused to run away from the tackler, we’d just square up and try to run each other over. We played very, very, very violent football. I remember kids would get hurt, but it was one of the greatest outlets for me. I loved that drill because my goal was to be the toughest, biggest, most dominant football player possible.
For years I had been downtrodden, teased, bullied, and dominated by the kids at school. But football gave me a battle field to challenge them, and I couldn’t wait to have my chance to nail the kids that had tormented me. I ached for the opportunity to cleave the bullies and knock the SNOT out of ‘em.
I ached for the opportunity to cleave the bullies and knock the SNOT out of ‘em.
Coach Haugee made me practice both offense and defense because of how dominant I was. He continuously encouraged Me and rode me really hard to excel. While I wasn’t a polished football player then, I was way better than most of the kids and I had a newly planted desire to get as good as possible.
That year I remember getting nearly a quarter of the tackles on defense and totally killing kids on offense. Our team was a solid 6-4 team, and I was totally dominant. The kids at school changed their tone, and Jimmy was forced to start to respect me quite a bit more. Jimmy changed it up quite a bit too, particularly because when we played the black team, He saw first-hand that I was a dominant player, and He didn’t dare try to come near me.
I had a new love, a new passion, and a fire inside of me to become the best football player I could become. This continued until I entered college on a full ride, division 1 football scholarship.
The problem was that my desire to improve wasn’t fueled by a desire to win games, to be the best I could be, or any other altruistic reason.
The problem was that I was trying to lift myself above other people, by dominating them.
I wanted to be the best, and I cared far too much about being accepted as a phenomenal athlete.
As the Hip-Hop artist Lacrea has said in the past “If you live for their approval, you’ll die from their rejection”.
In my teen and young adult years, my selfish, arrogant, rage-fueled motivation caused Me to live for a time as a wicked fool. During this time, I walked around ready to fight people, I damaged good relationships, I was boastful, and oozing with pride. As I was riddled with these evil characteristics, my relationship with my parents, my friends, girls, coaches, and almost the law, were damaged.
Our desires and motivations in life matter quite a bit. Envy or covetousness is a particularly sinister sin because it’s jealousy that causes us to act in some of the most irrational and destructive ways.
My self-focused, prideful, motivation to dominate other people was really all about jealousy.
In fact, I’ve come to wonder if my reaction to the bullying was rooted more in my jealousy and covetousness for their admiration, as it was in defiance of their hurtful remarks. I tend not to give this thinking too much credence when it comes to a third grade little boy, but in an adult or a teenager, a negative response to a bully might sometimes be rooted in our jealousy or envy for the approval of others.
as an adult or a teenager, a negative response to a bully might sometimes be rooted in our jealousy or envy for the approval of others.
I had the love of my parents, I had some really good friends that didn’t tease me, but my desire was often to ignore what I did have, and focus on what I didn’t.
That’s a whole other discussion, that I don’t want to have right now. For now, I’d like to simply say that my earthly desire for fame and admiration was probably rooted in my overcompensating to the rejection associated with bullying.
my earthly desire for fame and admiration was probably rooted in my overcompensating to the rejection associated with bullying.
As I’ve tried to analyze my life, I’ve come to see that this inner desire to lift myself up has caused me much pain over the years. Puffing myself up, lifting myself above others, holding my own needs above others, and dominating other people is overtly anti-Jesus.
I was a Christian, but I was using a desire to dominate others in the sports arena, which would eventually come spilling into my non-athletic life in my late teen years.
What unfolded later in my life will come in a later post, but for now I want to simply tell you that I’ve struggled with pride big time. What was even more sinister about the outlet of football, is that not only can I lift myself up by violently dominating other people, but rage, fury, and anger are things that players often use both in training and out on the field.
Mixing self-focused pursuits with rage, anger, and fury ends up transforming a once delightful person into someone that’s squarely opposed to God. God told us in His word that He opposes the proud, the haughty, and those who rush to violence. I was surely proud, and when there was an absence of the arena of sports, my need to elevate myself through physical dominance meant I’d get into fights and ruin some friendships.
God told us in His word that He opposes the proud, the haughty, and those who rush to violence.
I’m sure there are other people who used football or other physical sports as an outlet to “level the playing field” against bullies. In some respects, I think this is an appropriate outlet, but I’d like to warn people to look out for these warning signs to identify when you’ve installed some harmful thinking into your life.
But trying to lift yourself up can be done in many different ways. In fact, anytime we’re trying to build up ourselves, our image, our ego, our own confidence, we need to be very careful.
Ask yourself these questions to see if you’re wrestling with this same self-exulting pride thing I do.
0 – are there people “you can’t stand?”
1 – Do you like to see others fail?
2 – Do you need listen to certain music such as heavy metal or hip-hop to get “raged” before you workout or play?
3 – Do you find yourself walking around trying to appear like a badass?
4 – do you include other people by sacrificing your own “insider-ness”?
0 – do you like to keep your own clique tight and then work as a group to be the “cool kids”
0 – are you one of the “popular kids?”
0 – would you consider yourself an encouraging person to all people around you?
5 – do you use cliques, friendships, and positional authority in order to lord it over people?
6 – do you find yourself trying to “act cool” and are really concerned with how you’ll look to people?
7 – do you dislike when people “make you look dumb” by associating with them?
8 – do you create a “them and us” mentality, or do you try and involve as many people as possible in things?
9 – do you spas-out often in sports, getting really mad when things don’t go right?
10 – do you get in fights? do you have rivalries?
11 – how important REALLY is the acceptance of certain people for you?
12 – do you ignore good friends in order to pursue less-healthy friendships with people who you consider “cooler” or more attractive?
0 – do you play the girlfriend/boyfriend game of continuously trying to trade up for a newer “hotter”, more popular, or “better” one?
0 – do you toy with the hearts of friends or significant others?
13 – do you sellout people in order to advance your own agenda?
14 – Are you a bully? Are you mean to people? Do you pick on people even if you’re “Just kidding”?
15 – do you talk about other people when they’re not around in a manner other than an uplifting one? Do you gossip?
16 – do you help others get suspicious of someone else, or do you always rush to their rescue and “insert trust” rather than suspicion?
17 – are you hesitant to celebrate a successful co-worker’s victories in order to hold them down?
18 – do you refuse to help advocate for a co-worker because you think you’re better than them?
19 – do you horde talent in your management teams rather than let your successful people leave you to help in other areas?
20 – do you tend to look at the bad things about people primarily?
21 – do you make life hard for people at school because you secretly “can’t stand them?”
22 – are there people at school that you can’t stand?