The Damage You Can Do By Not Practicing The Three Crowns

Posted on April 7th, 2016 by

This photo is funny. My situation, unfortunately, is not.

codyracketsmashAfter 35 years of hearing and preaching about the TLC Three Crowns of positive attitude, full effort, and good sportsmanship, I recently, in the heat of the moment, called out my friend and teammate for not doing something I thought he should do.  I did it in front of others.  The look of hurt, embarrassment and anger in his eyes said everything.  I did not practice the third crown of sportsmanship—treating others the way I want to be treated—but I apologized as we were leaving the court.  He forgave me.

A month later, I did it again.  Same friend, same situation.  This time, when I apologized immediately on the court, it rang hollow to him.  Why?  Because I just said a month earlier I would not do that again.  Why should he trust me now?  I again did not commit to the third crown of good sportsmanship, and in the process, did terrible damage to our relationship.

This has caused us both great heartache.  We are, after a few months, just starting to make tentative gestures of peace towards one another after he originally informed me he had no interest in a relationship.  I have hope.  But I know the damage I did.  All because my own self-interest was greater than my interest in him.  I did not treat him the way I would like to be treated.  At all.

I have found that I can have fun on the tennis court even when I’m getting waxed, dumping shots into the net, taping my service returns, double faulting, or my teammate is playing poorly. If I am focusing on the Three Crowns.

I also can have fun on the basketball court (I still play a couple times a week) even if my shot is off, my opponent is blowing by me (“defense” is not in my vocabulary) or I am tripping over my own two feet (they are quite large).  Or if my teammate is playing poorly. If I am focusing on the Three Crowns.

And I can have fun in life, even if I don’t get the best grade in the class, or the promotion I wanted, or the recognition for a job well done. If I am focusing on the Three Crowns.

There is no question I have learned over the years to be better at them by becoming aware of my choices and trying to make them habits.

But it is a life long struggle for me.  I am ultra competitive in sports and life, and when I break one or all of the Crowns, I am witness to the damage it can do to others and myself.

There is a price we pay every time we choose not to practice them.  And it is always a broken relationship.  And it is never worth it. I know. I’m in one.

But I am committed to not giving up, to saying “next time I will choose differently”, and to count to ten (really) before I am about to say something I will later regret.  Wish me luck and I will wish you the same.  Because the thing about the Three Crowns is, we can’t do it alone.   We need each other.  That is often joyously – and sometimes painfully – evident.

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  1. Brad Wimmer says:

    Neal, we shared this with our son tonight who I am bringing to TLC in June to share the 3 crowns and my love of tennis. He is 33 and taking over our business in Fargo. His 1st comment was “who is this guy and what business does he have preaching the 3 crowns if he can’t follow them himself?” I think I know you fairly well and haven’t cancelled because of this! We all are still moving forward and even in my tennis I am trying hard to be a better partner! Probably not as competitive as you, I still struggle to improve, not my tennis skills , but life skills on the tennis court. I will look forward to you meeting Aaron and explain how you lead, but still haven’t hit perfection yet. I know I haven’t yet!! Brad Wimmer

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Thanks, Brad. I look forward to meeting Aaron. He has an excellent and legitimate question. I preach and try to practice the Three Crowns as best I can, and when I fail, try to be upfront and honest about it, because it is not the message that is flawed (thank you John Whitmer and Barb Wilkinson from a previous blog), but the messenger – in this case, me. I preach the Three Crowns not just because it is a message the world needs to hear, but because it is a message I need to hear and do my best to make it more of a habit.

      Your thoughtful response brought to mind two quotes from two of my heroes. The first is from Mark 2: …16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?” 17And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” I am painfully aware that I fall into the latter category, and hope if I were living 2,000 years ago, Jesus – who is a hero to me for his radical stance on forgiveness – would have taken time to eat with me, because I am in need of any mercy that is available.

      The second hero is a Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh, who has taught me to say when I have wronged another or been wronged: “I suffer. I have caused you to suffer. Please forgive me. I’m doing my best. I need your help.”

      I’m looking forward to seeing you this summer.

  2. Anna says:

    Neal, hang in there buddy. And I’m going to take a second to remind you ; you are an amazing person remember that . No one is perfect and when things happen , struggle , pain, mistakes , it’s for us to learn and grow stronger . I am mainly here to remind you , even in times of hardship, I thought you could be reminded like I said , years ago you were in part one of the ones who did in fact change my life . Sometime you deserve to know why and I’d gladly send you an email of how ( if I had it ). Keep your head up . You know where to find me if you need anything . (((( hugs )) Thank you for always sharing , and teaching us, and myself .

    Anna Yarbrough

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      One thing I have always been convinced of is we’re all in this together. Thanks, Anna…

  3. Barbara Lewis says:

    I have two comments… After reading this three times I still don’t believe it’s in your DNA to be unkind to anyone, anywhere, anytime. And, I think your partner (knowing you) should have been more gracious and asked you if you were ok. Doesn’t seem like you did anything so horrible that it would end a relationship. What am I missing?

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Great question, Barb. It, alas, is in my DNA to be unkind at times. As I think it is in every human being’s DNA to be unkind at times. One of the things about Leandra’s and my music career all those years was it was originally built on “Old Love”, a love song that speaks of enduring through all things, but gentle in its tone. On the same CD, however, is a song I wrote called “The Way We Killed Our Love”, about the slow, poisonous things we do in relationships that can cause it to die. Both were about me (or us, in this case, as a couple), and we made that clear that we struggle like everyone else. However, in concert, all most people wanted to hear about was the “Old Love” Neal & Leandra, no matter how we tried to say “This other, darker side of love, is also us, as it is all of us.” At least, we were hoping we weren’t alone in the ups and downs of marriage :). Similarly, I have the capacity to be a very good sport almost all the time now, thanks to the Three Crowns. But not always. As this situation illustrates, I can be unkind and hurtful. Your question about whether it will end the relationship is not entirely up to me. I only have control over reaching out to my friend and hoping it will be repaired, but no control over whether he will reach back. But I am a persistent man :). I think your question for him to have asked me if I was ok is a brilliant one, because usually when there is someone hurting someone else, the perpetrator is going through something that causes them to lash out that may have nothing to do with the current situation. (And, as a matter of fact, I did identify something I was going through that triggered the incidents). Saying “Are you ok?” diffuses a volatile situation and reaches out with compassion. I could have – and should have, perhaps – asked him the same, because I know he has had some struggles recently. When pride and ego get in the way, it’s a hard wall to climb or knock down. So, in answer to your question of what you are missing, I think it would be that I can, indeed, be unkind and hurtful, though I value (and try to practice) kindness in each encounter I have. But I do also admit is that a strength (or stubbornness?) of mine is I am always trying to build brides, or rebuild bridges I have burned. When you burn one, though, it is harder to rebuild than building the first time. But worth the effort. And then, if the other person really doesn’t want to rebuild (again, not in my control), I live with the sadness and move on.

      • Barbara Lewis says:

        Wow…deep. thanks for explaining but would it be OK if I still think of you as perfect. No pressure. ?????❤️?????❤️
        Ps. “0ld Love” one of my favorites

  4. Bart Kosen says:

    An honest self appraisal of our actions or words followed up with doing the next right thing is practicing the Three Crowns. Well done Neal and thank you for your vulnerability!

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Thanks, Bart. Kick the door down! (but in a very Three Crowns way… :)). And one of my actual mottos is “Do the next right thing”! Because I know I will not always do the right thing, but can still get back on track with the next right thing… Thanks again.

  5. Greta Wood says:

    Neil, it is comforting to know that any of us can falter when trying to be good partners. When I’m having a bad tennis experience, have forgotten the 3 crowns, I think it’s only me. I should be a better person than the one who wants to roll her eyes and turn away from her partner. It’s a good reminder that we have to focus intently on better sportsmanship, to lighten up, have a good time and then winning will come. But if it doesn’t we will still feel good about having treated our partners well.

  6. Diane P Spinucci says:


    I too have been in your situation, don’t beat yourself up too badly, as a true friend will understand that we are not perfect. Like you said, one would think after 35 years of preaching it, why can’t we practice it! Well I think as we get older/wiser, we forget things along the way…and that is our brain’s way of saying…..” HELLO…I am running out of room “, and it needs to adjust. It gets harder to accept others shortcomings and we forget we have many of our own!

    So to all the dear friends we have, let’s ask them to overlook our shortcomings and we will do the best to respect and appreciate them for what they bring into our lives every day! From me to you I say, continue to enjoy them, love them and keep them close!


    I miss you and TLC, I’m Gonna Give Pickle Ball a shot!

  7. Chuck Mitchell says:

    Brave and honest. Thanks.

  8. Marcia Gilmer says:

    Thanks, Neal, for sharing your painful experience. I know I can relate but I’m not sure I could share so candidly. Your willingness to put yourself “out there” (in bits and bytes throughout the nether-sphere) allows the rest of us to learn from your experience and to examine our own actions, reactions and motives. I hope your friend (victim?!) will be gracious, forgiving and able to trust you once again.

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Yes, indeed, victim is the right word. I hope he will, too. We had a special relationship and I hope it is fully restored someday.

  9. Louise Halverson says:

    Neal, we love you for being honest and trying to teach us all.

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Thanks, Louise. I spent a lot of time thinking about the blog before sending it. But I will never forget a retreat I was facilitating once where one of the men – a clinical psychologist – spoke openly about his life long struggle with depression. As a mental health care professional, many would hide it. His vulnerability about it made everyone in the room feel less alone. I remember thinking, “I want to be like that”, not to spill things for the sake of spilling, but to be open about my struggles, knowing someone else might be helped the way he helped me. Thanks for letting me know.

  10. David Sommer says:

    Beautiful and profound. And reassuring to know I’m not the only one who sometimes struggles.

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      We will need to sit down sometime and compare struggles. I’m pretty sure I can match you! 🙂 Thanks, David.

  11. Linda LeClaire says:

    Thank you Neal for sharing so honestly your experiences. It is easy to see when reading your blog that the Three Crowns were the best possible response. Yet, in the “heat of the battle” we can forget that very clear truth! Then instead of responding from our higher self, we respond from our lower self. It hurts a lot once we calm down and realize what we did. Our response had come from fear energy instead of love energy. By sharing your story you help all of us make our intention to come from love and the Three Crowns stronger. We realize once again that it isn’t always easy and that we can be vulnerable to these traps ourselves. It helps us to be more aware.
    Neal, your courage in writing of your experience shows your determination to commit daily to the Three Crowns and in the process helps us to do so as well. Thank you again for sharing with us!

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Thank you, Linda. I love your distinction between love and fear. A lot of people think the opposite of love is hate, but I think you’re right in that it’s fear, which then leads to all sorts of hurt when we do anything out of fear. Grateful for your comments!