Sometimes Just Leave the Ball Alone

Recently I wrote a Directions article on “Play the Ball Where the Monkey Throws It.”  The story came from a friend who went to a golf course in Africa near the jungle’s edge.  The owners of the golf course had an unending problem with the monkeys that would come out on the course and grab the golf balls and play with them and often throw them.  Not being able to control the monkeys, the owners of the golf course put up signs instructing the golfers, “Play the ball where the monkey throws it.”

In the article, I dealt with the fact that life is a lot like that with all the shifts and changes and interruptions of life.  In light of that article, a friend brought me this picture and asked what to do now.  I said, “I’m not going to play the ball, and sometimes you need to leave the ball alone.”  The truth is that in all areas of life there are occasions when you just need to leave the ball alone.  The wisdom of Solomon flows through and is reflected concerning these matters in Proverbs. 

In Proverbs 26:17 Solomon said, “He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears.”  What a graphic and beautiful picture of people getting involved where they shouldn’t and possibly making things worse.  If you don’t quite understand Proverbs 26:17, the wise man of the Old Testament was basically saying keep your nose out of other folks’ business.  Sometimes you just can’t help people and there are some people who just can’t help themselves to stay out of other folks’ lives. They feel passionate about giving their advice and straightening other people out.

I get it, but there are times, places, and events when you really want to help and you feel like you need to intervene, and maybe the intervention is required but at the same time, on the other hand, you are going to intrude into some things that you ought to leave alone.  Now, if you do feel that you have got to take some action and you need to intervene, here are some things to keep in mind that might be helpful and may even prove to be productive.

If you’ve got to intervene, approach it with a sense of kindness and genuine caring.  Through the years, I’ve had people to say to me, “Can I be brutally honest with you?”  I confess, when they would ask me that, I would as a rule say, “Absolutely.”  Bring it on.  Only to find out that some folks place a lot more emphasis on the brutally than they do the honest part.  I have learned that sometimes I don’t appreciate people being brutally honest. 

I’ve never had anybody say to me, “Can I lovingly or kindly be honest with you about something?”  I can remember dozens of people and even call them by name who loved to get hold of the brutal handle of life and use it on my head or heart.  It’s probably rarely a good idea for anybody to approach another about any matter with a tong in one hand and a sword in the other.  But somebody who really cares, someone with a loving spirit, someone who actually wants to be redemptive in a situation, can find, if not an open door at least a crack in the door, that might be helpful.

As you go through life and all the strange quirks and shifts and monkeys running around over the course of your life, messing up the game as you see it, you can’t always just go along trying to adjust to that and play the ball anyway.  This picture that’s been included is worth ten thousand of my words.  I don’t know how the ball got on the alligator’s back, but regardless of how it got there, I’d be prayerful and careful about approaching the ball or the alligator with a golf club in my hand. 

As Solomon would steer us away from meddling in other folks’ quarrels, I might add don’t go along and pick up a dog by its ears.  Sometimes it is just best to leave the ball alone.  Space won’t allow me to do this, but I can think of multiple incidences when in a marriage relationship, if a man or woman had just been sensible enough to leave stuff alone, life would have been a lot better.  It’s true at work.  It’s true at church.  It’s true in your social relations.  There is an endless stream of places and faces where the golf ball of life may land that it might be best just to leave the ball alone. 

The author can be contacted at

The author can be contacted at

Jim Futral

Executive Director-Treasurer