when you stop keeping score.

WMHR-1As long as our schedules permit, my friend Brandee and I do a babysitting swap every week. It’s simple: she watches my son for four hours on Mondays and I watch her son for four hours on Wednesdays. Our boys are only six weeks apart and get along famously so this arrangement is a win-win for everyone. Seriously, do you know how much I can get done in four hours?! A. Lot.

When we first started swapping, something came up one week and I wasn’t able to watch Brandee’s son. She had already watched Everett that week, and I felt terrible about throwing our swap out of balance. I threw out a few dates and times that I could babysit, insisting over and over again that I “owed” her.

It wasn’t until I had thrown a small fit that Brandee finally confronted me about my guilt. She gently reminded me that I didn’t owe her anything, and that we were both friends and sisters in Christ. She told me that sometimes it would work out for her to babysit more, and sometimes it would work out for me to babysit more.

A friendship that doesn’t keep score—what a simple, beautiful idea.

What if instead of keeping score we simply poured into each other as best we could and helped each other with whole, generous hearts?

What if we stopped keeping score in our marriages? Married folks, you know what I’m talking about. Who has emptied the dishwasher more? Who has gotten up with the baby more? Who has folded more laundry? Who has changed more diapers? Whose job is harder? Who is more tired? Who is more deserving of a break?

Keeping score is not only exhausting, it’s also the exact opposite of grace. When our favors and acts of service are contingent upon reciprocity, they’re not really gifts at all, are they?

Brandee was right about our swap. Sometimes it has worked for her to babysit more and sometimes it has worked for me to babysit more. When I was having a rough week last month, she brought me flowers. When she had the stomach flu a few weeks ago, I brought her soup and popsicles. Whoever is in need always receives help; it’s a natural give and take. Letting go of my desire to keep our babysitting swap perfectly “even” was a worthwhile, albeit slow process. Our friendship grew because of it, as did my overall attitude about helping friends.

I know we’re in the middle of February and resolutions have come and gone, but today I’m making a new one:

I want 2014 to be the year I throw away the scorecards.

So what if I change more diapers? So what if I text a friend 3x more often than she texts me? So what if I did someone a huge favor and never got a thank you card?

So what?

Let’s let it go. Let’s accept help when it’s offered to us without the guilt of owing anything back. Let’s throw out the scorecards and put forth our best hearts with nothing but generosity as our intention. Let’s offer help when help is needed and accept help when we are the ones in need. We don’t need to count or check boxes or make sure the scale is balanced—it’s okay to let it tip back and forth over time through different seasons.

After all, if Christ wasn’t keeping score on the cross, who are we to keep score of anything?

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39 Responses to when you stop keeping score.

  1. Kathleen says:

    I think I should read this every day!
    Kathleen´s last blog post ..project life 2013 : weeks 48 – 49

  2. Jo says:

    Oh this is a good one. I have to admit that I am very much guilty of keeping score in my relationships with others. I am working on this and I’m afraid it will be a life long process.

  3. Kaylan says:

    I’m so guilty of this. Great reminder, woman.
    Kaylan´s last blog post ..guest post: simple tips for photographing children

  4. Andrea says:

    I needed to read this today. Keeping score becomes such an easy (and destructive) habit in a relationship. Any relationship for that matter. I carry an immense amount of guilt for not ‘returning the favor’ to friends or family, and I need to stop. I also need to stop carting around that score card in my relationship, it is a long long long road in a relationship and “who cares?” really should sum up my feelings about feeling like I am doing more. The tables always turn, your cards always change, and things are never the exact same- at it is all about His grace.

    Thank you thank you thank you. I think you just refocused my day when I was off to a not so great start.

  5. I love this. My husband and I just had this conversation a few weeks ago. We were internally getting frustrated with the other for not keeping it “even” although we never talked about it until it all blew up and came out. We are both competitive people to begin with and it is in our nature to try and one up each other by proving we have done more, etc. I’m so glad we finally talked about it and I’m so glad you wrote this!
    Emily Burgess´s last blog post ..Summer in February.

  6. Harmony says:

    This is great advice for me and also a gentle way to let someone else who “owes me” gently know that they don’t.
    Harmony´s last blog post ..Perspective

  7. Emma says:

    I love this idea. Too many times friendships turn sour because you think you owe the other one something, and then because of miscommunication you lose touch with what your friendship was all about in the first place. Thanks for the reminder!

  8. Christine says:

    Amen, sister. I’ve realized that with some of my closest friends–money never matters. I’ve traveled with a couple of them, and we’re both so comfortable just trading off treating for coffee or picking up the bar tab–because we know that it will all even out in the end!
    Christine´s last blog post ..Postcard from the Shaker Mill Farm Inn

  9. Such an important post, thank you
    something i am aware of but completely struggle to get right in my own marriage
    brett fish
    brett Fish anderson´s last blog post ..What my Single Friends would like their Married Friends to know: Meet Craig Botha

  10. Sarabell says:

    Yet another great post from you I really needed to see!

  11. Mariah says:

    You are nailing it. I love it. Thank you so much for this reminder! I love the stuff you write about!
    Mariah´s last blog post ..No More New

  12. When you commented on my recent post about asking for help with your story about Brandee, I somehow had a feeling it might turn into a post of its own. I’ve been on the lookout for it! Well said, my friend. Thanks for sharing.
    Kate @ GreatestEscpaist.com´s last blog post ..I’m Not Responding to Your Text Message Right Away, and Here’s Why

  13. Hi there, nice to meet you. I love this blog post. Thank you for writing it. It’s inspired to get back to a way of being that used to drive me. I stopped because I felt my giving was one sided but you’re right. Even if that was the case my presence brightened someone’s day. My text made them feel special. So, I’ll get back to it. Thanks again!
    I found you through a tweet that Danielle (@danihampton) shared today.
    Lisa R Charles´s last blog post ..Breastfeeding, Motherhood, & Shame – How Journaling Changed It All

  14. Kiki says:

    That last sentence was AMAZING. If Jesus doesn’t/didn’t keep scores, why do we? My goodness, that was a heartcheck in and of itself. Thank you for these words! I sometimes get too into the whole reciprocation-thing so it was nice to be reminded that true friends don’t expect anything, because they love you, not your stuff/actions. 🙂
    Kiki´s last blog post ..REMEMBER THE GOOD.

  15. so good, such a good reminder of extending grace.
    Andrea Worley´s last blog post ..Coffee Date:: My Heart & Changes to the blog.

  16. Robyn B says:

    i love this whole post…. but that last line….golden!!!
    you are so right! keeping score either turns into bitterness or guilt…. but either way it’s never grace!
    thank you for this reminder!!

  17. This is exactly it – I feel self-conscious when I feel that my relationship with another person is out of balance, but it’s not about friendships evening out. You’re right — keeping score is the opposite of grace.
    Lindsey // MoreAwesomerBlog.com´s last blog post ..Thursday Tidbits 2/20/2014

  18. amber says:

    i randomly stumbled across your blog this morning and have been reading (aka, stalking) it for over an hour. (dang, that made me sound like a creeper. i’m not!) your words and photography are beautiful. so excited to read more!
    amber´s last blog post ..weekly musings.

  19. Susannah says:

    What a blessing that you have a friend you can swap babysitting with! And it’s even better that she doesn’t keep score! Such a gift!

  20. Marie-Rose says:

    I have that problem. I’ve totally been “keeping score” with my best friend recently. Thank you for the reminder that it doesn’t matter who texts first or who’s too busy to talk. I need to stop worrying about all that and just be the best friend I can be.

    <3 Marie-Rose
    Marie-Rose´s last blog post ..Youth groups and non-member friends (and also Valentine’s Day)

  21. Bethany says:

    YES. I really needed to read this. I am always keeping score but I don’t even think I realize it! How awesome to have a friend who doesn’t care about it at all! I feel like most of us would be that way if we realized how little other people care about the current score of things!
    Bethany´s last blog post ..the weekly cute returns

  22. Chandler says:

    I am in love with this idea!! I really needed the reminder and I am going to try to keep this in mind with everything that I do. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on all of this and reminding me what friendships are truly about! Have a wonderful rest of your weekend,
    Chandler
    Chandler´s last blog post ..Life Lessons

  23. jena says:

    Dang, I actually cried a little.
    We have a new baby, well, she is 9 weeks.. And my score keeping cards are out of control when it comes to my Husband. I need to get rid of them, ASAP.

    Thank you for this wonderful post. Score cards are in the trash. Starting over today.

    • Ashlee says:

      Giiiirl, I have been there. I don’t think my husband and I ever struggled with this more than when we had a newborn. Specifically with who was getting up in the middle of the night. Hang in there. It gets better. I promise 😉

  24. jen says:

    Thank you for posting this and reminding me that there are more important things in life than keeping score. 🙂
    jen´s last blog post ..busy week. but, aren’t they all?

  25. Megan G. says:

    This was exactly what I needed to read today. Sometimes I forget that it doesn’t matter that things need to be “equal” and as long as we do something for each other out of the good of our hearts, that’s what truly matters. I need to throw away my scorecards and completely let go of the guilt and frustration. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this piece and thank you for the great reminder.

  26. Gina says:

    Guilty over here! Thank you for this much-needed reminder.
    Gina´s last blog post ..Four Benefits You Gain From Living the Expat Life

  27. Pingback: Thursday Tidbits 2/27/2014 | More Awesomer

  28. Lauren B says:

    Thank you, thank you! I love the last bit about Christ on the cross. The best gift we can give and be given is an empty score sheet.

  29. Pingback: What I’m Into (February 2014) | Pilgrim Sandals

  30. Sarah says:

    Aw, geez…… “Thank you cards”? You would’ve hated me. Lol. I’m of the frame of thought that if I said “thank you” why on earth do I need to write it down and mail it too? Lol, seriously, overkill.

    Glad you’re over that!

    On another note, loved your musings! Roughly 10 years ago, when I was 25, my best friend at the time unleashed a looooonnnnnngggggg list of things I had done wrong (or so she thought…..) and it was obvious she had been keeping score the whole friendship. I have to say her score keeping was a bit off, of which I pointed out but the damage was done. I had no idea that people beyond 12 years of age actually did this, but they do (because we’re sinful) and it’s sick, toxic behavior. I’m so glad for the friends I have in my life now because it’s about relationship not competition, right? Right.

    In Christ!

  31. Anne says:

    Ashlee,
    You have no idea how much I needed to read this post. GOT IT. Funny how He just keeps giving me what I need.
    BUT, yes, I have a BUT. I am a super giver, and at a certain point I feel taken advantage of (this is only in 2 of my major life relationships).
    YES I need to stop keeping score, otherwise how do I know *when* that is…
    So will start anew. again. Perfect! Our Easter/Pascha is this weekend and no better time to be present to Grace! Thank you. ps. I cried not a little but a-lot. I am still crying actually! LOL!
    Thank you for complaining about nursing bras… otherwise I might not have found this post!
    Anne

  32. Molly says:

    Quote: Keeping score is not only exhausting, it’s also the exact opposite of grace. When our favors and acts of service are contingent upon reciprocity, they’re not really gifts at all, are they?

    I literally just copied this down onto my desktop, where I”ll see it every day. I’m guilty of this. 100%. Great message to remember.

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