Read Them and Weep

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Copyright 2016 Kirk Whitney. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2016 Kirk Whitney. All rights reserved.

I played in a poker tournament a few weeks ago. It had been years since I had played poker, so I employed a strategy where I waited for very strong starting hands, then made very large bets. That allows you to play without thinking too much. The strategy worked well for the first hour or so. I was the chip leader at our table for most of that time.

Just before the first break, I was dealt a pair of Jacks. Three players had bet before me. Feeling confident that they would fold, I raised the bet by a factor of three. Most of the players folded as expected, but one called my raise. I was concerned for a few seconds, but when the first three shared cards were dealt, there were no high cards. When my opponent bet, I thought he was bluffing so I raised his bet and he called. We went through the same dance of betting after the fourth card was dealt. The fifth card was dealt and he bet again. I was ready to raise him again.

Then it dawned on me. This guy knew exactly what I was doing and I had no idea what he was doing. Rather than call his last bet, I folded my hand, losing a large portion of my chips in the process. I should have folded my cards after he called my first bet. Here’s why. It was obvious to him that I was only playing strong hands and placing very large bets. He had to be very confident he could beat a large pair.

The reason I couldn’t see that at the time was because I was too focused on what I was doing and paying no attention to what he was doing.

At the break, he approached me and admitted that he had been holding a pair of fives; when a third five card was dealt among the shared cards, he knew he had any pair that I was holding beat.

The incident reminded me of the passage from Matthew, chapter 7 where Jesus says;

“If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.”

If a stranger can observe you and tell what you are thinking, how much more will your heavenly Father know. (Of course, He knows all). It’s sobering to think how transparent we can be to others, let alone to God.

We make observations about the motivations of others, that they themselves may not see at all. We see it all the time among our family and friends, often in distinct patterns. Here are a few examples;

  • The Backhanded Complimenter:  This is the person that gives compliments that really serve as an insult.
  • The Boomerang: No matter what topic comes up, this person always finds a way to bring the conversation back to themselves.
  • The One Upper:  No matter what you have or have done, they have or have done it better.
  • The One Downer: The opposite of the person above. Heaven forbid you have good news to share. It’s an opportunity for them to point our how much better you have it than they do.
  • The Auto Corrector: My father was one of these. I find myself doing it as well. These are the people who make sure that no grammatical or factual error that you commit goes uncorrected.

When we confront these behaviors it is obvious to us what those people are doing. It’s also clear that most of the time, they are not aware of it themselves. That leads me to ponder, what self-aggrandizing behaviors do I display, yet not see?

It’s easy to have contempt for those that exhibit such annoying behaviors. I find as I get older, realizing that God sees through them, just as he sees through me makes it easier to let go of my judgment.

That leads me to yet another quote from Matthew 7:

“Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?”

Story and Photo Copyright 2016 Kirk Whitney

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About Author

Kirk Whitney is a retired Home Economics teacher and school administrator. He now works as a full time grandparent.

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