Put up or shut up

Photo by Cindy Seigle via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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.

Photo by DonkerDink via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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.





9 responses to “Put up or shut up”

  1. Carl Avatar

    I grew up in NC and I understand everything you write about basketball. People who were all talk were often told to “get that weak stuff outta’ here!” I don’t advocate throwing people out of the church, but church leaders who are all quotable quotes and no action coould use a good “in your face” blocked shot every now and then to remind them that with Jesus, it’s all about game. Pharisees vs. Disciples, I’ll take Disciples every time. Thanks for a great post.

  2. Josh Avatar

    Love this. I have to remind myself all the time that good ideas don’t matter until you actually do something with them.

  3. Adam Avatar

    This is a great message to the modern church. Don’t tell me what you can, should, or are a part of spiritually….SHOW ME! The world is crying out for us to show them His love.

  4. mark riddle Avatar

    would love to hear the story behind this one. 🙂

  5. adam mclane Avatar

    Great comment Adam. The world is waiting for us to live out what we believe…

  6. Katie Avatar

    I’m sure most of us have heard the quote, actually Brennen Manning, but used by DC talk, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” It’s a good one.

  7. Josh Pezold Avatar

    Love it! This goes along the lines of “ideas are just ideas”. In ministry and in everyday life we get so excited about the ideas, the concepts, the books, etc… but ideas are just ideas and God doesn’t honor ideas… he honors action. Love the reminder. Blessings.

  8. Jon Huckins Avatar

    Dude, you know this stuff lights a fire under my booty. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  9. Jack Wellman Avatar

    Well said. It makes me want to be careful of the words I say that they are true and sweet for I may have to eat them. Great article.

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