Ruminations: Unflippable

You may recall that I commissioned a lovely game table when we moved to Cleveland. I wrote about it in a previous Rumination here.  

Recently, a friend happened to be sitting at that table, recounting an experience when someone got so frustrated with a game that they flipped the table and stormed out of the room. Pieces went flying everywhere, of course.  

This friend playfully tried to lift our sturdy game table and said, “This would be pretty hard to flip.” To which I replied, “You can storm away from the table if you want, but don’t ruin the game for everyone else.” (Don’t worry. We had a great time, and no one stormed away from anything.)  

I’m not sure when rage quitting and table flipping became common behaviors. It’s common enough, though, that the online platform Board Game Simulator even has a feature that allows a dissatisfied player to “flip the table” and send virtual game pieces tumbling across the screen. It’s an easy enough feature to disable, but if you don’t know it exists and a disgruntled player catches you by surprise, it can be quite infuriating. I say this from experience.  

Having an unflippable table wasn’t really my intention. It would surprise me if flipping the table was considered appropriate behavior by the people I usually play games with, even though some of the games we play can be frustrating. But having a table that’s tough to flip does set a clear boundary.  

One way we gently reinforce boundaries is to orchestrate the environment so that harmful behaviors are less likely to happen. Having a table that’s tough to flip means not having to say, “Table flipping behavior isn’t appropriate in this context.”  

As we live into a new congregational covenant this year, you’ve articulated a lot of important behaviors intended to help build deeper, meaningful connections. I wonder if there are ways to orchestrate our gatherings so that those promises are more likely to be fulfilled.  

Like, when we say, “We cultivate trust with one another by celebrating differences, honoring boundaries, and offering compassion and care,” that’s a big bundle of promises about how we’re going to treat one another. So, what might make it easier to do those things consistently?  

What’s the equivalent of an unflippable table that makes it more likely that we’ll celebrate differences rather than being put off by them or pretending those differences don’t exist? What unflippable table could make it easier for us to offer compassion? And maybe even give others the opportunity to provide care?  

And just as we can imagine unflippable tables around which we might intentionally cultivate trust, we could consider that kind of thing for all of the pieces of our covenants. The alternative is to assume that we’re all on the same page and that we all bring our very best to every situation.  

Which works fine. Until someone has a string of really tough days, isn’t sleeping well, isn’t really taking care of themselves, and shows up to a game table on their last thread only to be pushed over the edge by a frustrating roll of the dice. Then, it’s really helpful if the table is tough to flip.