One Play at a Time

You may have noticed that not many of the parables on this website have to do with sports. That probably stems from the fact that I don’t often watch or participate in organized sports, so they’re unlikely to be on the brain at any given time.

That said, I’ll admit that a good sports analogy has its place. I see analogies as parables in miniature. One of my kids participated in tackle football recently, and something her coach said on at least a couple of occasions stood out to me as one of those principles you can take with you as you leave the field.

In at least a couple of their games, after a bad play, our team had difficulty shaking it off. It affected how they played for a while afterward—sometimes the rest of the game. Of course, that meant they piled on more bad plays. The coach told them that if they had a bad play, they needed to learn from it and then leave that behind and focus on the next play. The most important play is the one you’re currently executing, or the next play if you’re in between.

Looking forward like this is vital in a spiritual context. Satan would love for us to drag ourselves down with the chains of our past deeds or of others’. The past is important as a teacher, but dwelling on it takes our focus off of what we need to do now.

The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote to other early Church leaders: “Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad” (Doctrine and Covenants 128:22). Joseph endured many difficult experiences, some of them due to his own mistakes that he learned from. But he looked forward with optimism because he knew he was furthering the Lord’s work.

I’ve goofed up in the past, and I’ve benefited from the generosity and forbearance of people around me who recognize errors happen and it’s essential to make a plan to move forward, learn from mistakes, and leave them behind. It’s a Christlike behavior. We might even say that justice looks backward, but by contrast, mercy looks forward. As we repent of our errors and forgive others of theirs, making the next play better than the last, we incrementally march toward the win.

Photo by Jean-Daniel Francoeur on

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