I’m from Indiana. A big part of my childhood involved playing basketball in driveways.
From the time the ice melted until we could hear the band playing and crowd cheering from Notre Dame stadium all we did was play basketball. We’d get off the bus and play 21. We’d have breakfast on Saturday then play 21 until lunch… followed by 15-20 more games of 21 until dinner.
When we could get 6-7 people together we’d play half court, make it take it to 10. Usually, it was 3-4 guys playing 21 until our fingers cracked or palms were white and the rest of our hands were black with dirt.
Everyone in the neighborhood knew everyone else’s moves. They knew who to guard from outside and who to push to their left hand in the lane. We knew who had an unstoppable jump hook. And we knew who couldn’t make a layup. There was even a kid so good at free throws that we had to make a new rule, after 7-check-up.
But the biggest rule of them all? Put up or shut up.
It never failed that the kids who didn’t play very much ran their mouth the most about how good they were. You’d hear them in the hallways at school trying to convince everyone that they could play. And you’d hear them on the bus all the way home.
Then we’d all get off at their stop, take their ball out of their bushes, roll it to them and say… Put up or shut up.
We’d call their bluff. Maybe they really could play? But usually not.
What does that phrase mean? Simply put, let your actions speak for themselves. It’s easy to run your mouth and tell people how good you are. But can you deliver?
In my neighborhood the best players didn’t have to tell people how good they were. They let their game speak for itself.
And chumps like me? We just kept out mouths shut.
All talk, no show
This same principle applies today.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to someone running their mouth about something. They know how to do my job better than me. Or they know how to do someone else’s job better than them so they are just trying to prove how smart they think they are to me.
They know how to minister to my youth group better than me. They know how to parent, to budget, to garden, to _____ [insert verb] better than I do.
And sometimes I just wish we were back in middle school so I could follow them off the bus, go fish the basketball out of their bushes, pass it to them and say “Put up or shut up.”
Looking in the mirror
My dad says a phrase that I think about all the time, “Don’t write a check that you can’t cash.” I think about that a lot. Especially when I run my mouth about what I can do, want to do, or should do.
I need to make sure that I’m not just talking about things for the sake of talking about them but that I’m willing to “cash those checks” with my life.
Church leadership culture is quick to celebrate the person with the loudest megaphone who says the quote worthy thing that gets retweeted all over the heavens.
That’s a whirpool of “put up or shut up” that I want no part of. Eventually, someone is going to ask them to cash that check.
Instead, I’d rather just keep my mouth shut and do my best to let my game speak for itself.