While eating breakfast this morning I said to my husband, “Playing Scrabble with me every day for the last six weeks has been one of the most romantic things you’ve done!”
He smiled, nodded his head, laughed heartily, and asked,
“I learned a lot about myself and I learned a lot about you. I discovered how we can work even better than we already do in our teamwork. This is what I will share through my blog this week.”
Four principles of effective and enjoyable teamwork which I re-discovered hidden in a game of Scrabble.
Principle no. 1: Cooperation brings more joy than competing does. When we first started playing I focused on which one of us would win. I, a more experienced player, felt confident it would be me. It happened. Most of the time. Did I feel happy?
Not really. I felt proud of the high scores I achieved. I felt impatient when my husband couldn’t immediately come up with a word. Did I feel closer to him? Not at all. Even though we were sitting together, I felt disconnected. This one-sided win did not feel like a win at all.
Finally, one day I said to John, “Let’s just work to get the highest combined score.” Doing this has proven to be much more satisfying.
Instead of hiding our alphabet tiles from each other, we show one another what we have. Instead of trying to block him from playing his “Q”, “X”, “Z”, I give him an opening. He does the same for me. When I can’t find a place to play my seven-letter word, he says, “There’s one!”
Principle no. 2: Generosity builds relationships; arrogance destroys them. John is truly a generous-spirited man. He played Scrabble with me every day for weeks, continuing to do so without complaining, while I won most of the games. Beyond that, he often congratulated me on my high scores. When I played a seven-letter word he said, “That’s terrific!”
Not, “I wish I could do that!” He felt genuinely happy about my win. At the same time, he did not think of himself as a loser. He wanted to do something that I enjoyed even though it wasn’t his favorite thing. Our relationship mattered more than his winning a game.
Principle no. 3: Doing the best I can for the best of everyone makes us both happier than being best of-all. Isn’t this what love is about? Loving our neighbor as we do ourselves? Even in something as small as a Scrabble game, we found this is true. What would happen in this country if each of us stopped pursuing happiness only for ourselves and began promoting happiness for everyone? What would happen if we stopped comparing scores and worked for the highest combined score? Not JUST for our nation. For the entire world. Isn’t that what Jesus calls us to do? Whom did he not love? Whom did he not die for? Whom does he not care about? How can we say we are members of his “team” and think otherwise?
Principle no. 4: Through perseverance, everyone grows toward maturity. For us, a successful game is not about who draws the “A” and starts first. It’s not about who ends first and gets the most points. It’s about the size of our combined score.
It’s about developing patience as I wait for my husband to play. It’s about letting go of frustration if he played where I wanted to play. It’s about rejoicing about his win as much as I rejoice in mine. It’s growing in the simple but profound ways of love.
“Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. (1 Corinthians 13: 4-5 NET)
I never imagined I could learn all this through playing a game of Scrabble!