YBT: you broke team

This summer I spent eight weeks serving as a summer missionary in Salcha, Alaska. I had the opportunity to work as a camp counselor at Camp Baldwin with eight other college students from South Carolina, Mississippi and Alaska.

My team had our differences, just as any team would. We didn’t always see eye-to-eye on how to do certain things such as devotions or one-on-ones with the campers, but we did always look out for our team as a whole.

From our first day of counselor training, our supervisor told us that for God to build us up, we couldn’t spend the entire summer tearing each other down. He explained that tearing someone down or hurting their feelings doesn’t always have to be intentional. An off-handed comment made sarcastically to make others laugh can hurt as much, or more, than an insult intended to cause harm.

To help us see how easily and how often our words were hurting others, he gave us three letters: “YBT.” He said YBT meant “you broke team” or that you’d intentionally or unintentionally said something that could hurt another member of the team.

At first, it was almost a joke to me to call YBT on a teammate because their sarcastic comments were still funny, especially if they were directed at someone else. But as the summer went on I realized why our supervisor originally gave us the gift of YBT.

When you’re exhausted in every way, the last thing you want to deal with is someone’s sarcastic comments. I realized that the more tired I was, the more those comments hurt when they were made. If I was in a good mood or had plenty of rest, those comments didn’t bother me, and I usually laughed right along with everyone else.

I didn’t even notice how sarcastic I was until someone was right there calling YBT. Now I see how right my supervisor was from the very first day. We wouldn’t have been able to be built up if all we’d done was off-handedly tear each other apart for eight weeks.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve been tempted multiple times to call YBT on my friends and family. Not because I’m better than they are or that I want to make them feel bad for hurting someone else, but because I’ve seen what can happen to someone’s self-esteem and self-image when they aren’t constantly being picked apart with jokes and jabs made for the entertainment of others.

I’m not saying that sarcasm is bad or that I don’t still use it every day. Even Jesus was sarcastic (look at Mark 12:24 when Jesus talks to the Sadducees who were experts on the Scriptures if you don’t believe me).

Sarcasm can make a point without tearing someone down or making fun of them. And it can be funny and make people laugh without making the person it’s directed at feel bad.

My team isn’t just the students I served with this summer. My team is the people I’m with every day. In nearly every situation, I’m with other people working to achieve a common goal, whether that’s getting an “A” in a class or just having fun.

Now imagine how much more productive my “teams” would be in achieving those goals if even just one person made the commitment to build others up and not break team.