Ted Lasso & The Emotional Yips
Ted Lasso is truly one of the joys of modern tv. I held off watching solely because I didn’t want to get another streaming service, but after some really great Ted clips on Tik Tok, I slapped the “Believe” sign and went full in.
While most people automatically cling to the positive, encouraging presence that Ted brings, almost equating to a modern Mister Rogers, there is so much more depth and honest vulnerability to the stories being told in the lives of the folks on Nelson Road.
Ted is a hurricane of encouragement and compassion, but beneath it all Ted would rather help the whole world deal with their pain rather than acknowledge his own (For clarity, this chapter is being written after season 2, and before season 3). Ted’s encouraging presence in the first half of season 1 almost seems farcical, like there’s no possible way a real person could exist on that level of hype.
We see small glimpses early on, his response to Michelle’s call, his near panic attack at the first press conference, that this tsunami of positivity is carrying much more pain, hurt, and fear than he is revealing to the world. Not that he is fake, but rather he is pushing the positivity and care of others over his own well-being. Even as he shared his spicy meal with Trent Crimm (The Independent), he was willing to take the pain, to make sure others didn’t feel it alone. As he told Trent,
“I love coaching. Now I'm gonna say this again, just so you didn’t think it was a mistake the first time I said it. For me success is not about the wins and losses. It’s about helping these young fellas be the best versions of themselves on and off the field and it ain’t always easy Trent. But neither is growing up without someone believing in you.”
Ted believes in sacrificing to put others first. While Ted’s subconscious motivation is childhood trauma, his actions are admirable regardless of the catalyst. While trauma isn’t necessary to make you a good soccer coach or super hero (I'm looking at you Bruce), putting others first and encouraging them sacrificially is something the Bible teaches strongly.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” - Philippians 2: 3-4
“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” - Acts 20:35
This is one of the reasons Ted rings so true and beautiful with us right now, Ted models the best of who we are meant to be. But why it also rings so true is that even when Ted is at his best, there’s pain and brokenness fueling him in ways he doesn’t even fully understand. Ted fought so hard not to give up on others because he felt like he was given up on. As he told Dr. Sharon;
“I didn’t go to my dad’s funeral cause he quit, you know, he quit on his family, he quit on himself, and I hated him for that. I think I still hate him for that..... He was a good dad and I don’t think He knew that. I think if he would have known how good he was at stuff he didn’t really care about being good at, I don’t think he would have done what he... I wish I would have told him more. I was just so angry at him cause he was always gone to work and just out with friends or something like that and then he was gone... and I knew right then and there that I was never gonna let anybody get by me without understanding they might be hurting inside you know. Cause life, it’s hard. It’s real hard.”
Even as he told Michelle before he let her go, “I promised myself I would never quit on anything in my life.” Ted was willing to suffer hanging on to a thread just to not quit. He carried the pain of his father’s death and abandonment, but also the misplaced guilt that it was partially his fault. The pain and issues we hold on to can truly shape our day to day lives. It made Ted into the walking after school special we know and love, but it also did a lot of damage. Emotional and mental trauma is a real thing and causes real damage. My go to for this is seeing how Jesus responded before the cross.
In Matthew 26:38 we see him dealing with the weight of what was to come, “Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Jesus felt that pain. He was suffering with it. But he took it to God. He lifted it up in prayer. He had his friends gather around Him. But so many people just take their pain and hold on to it. They hide it. They let it pour into everything they do.
In Proverbs 14:10 we also see a glimpse that holding on to our pain is no new thing, “The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.”
Even in Job 10:1 we hear what it’s like to let our pain come to the point it is overflowing in our lives, “I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul.”
Granted, Job had every reason to hold on to his pain, bitterness, and trauma, plus he had a very poetic way of expressing it. But what we see is that when this stuff is left to fester and rot inside us, it doesn’t leave us in a healthy place. While Ted went hardcore with kindness, it doesn’t always affect others the same way.
With Jamie, his father trauma caused him to become something he never intended.
“She’s the reason I work so hard, just wanted to make her proud. She doesn’t even care if I'm any good. Just wants me to be happy. Be a good lad. Once I got good though, me old man started showing up, didn’t he? You know, bragging to all his mates every time I scored a goal. Calling me “soft” if I didn’t... dominate, you know. And I hated that.... So, I made a vow to be so tough that he could never call me “soft” again. I wonder if sometimes... I forget about making her proud. I don’t think that she would be lately.”
Of course, we see more of Jamie’s trauma play out through the series and completely understand why he arrived at the place he did. But carrying that pain led Jamie to the place of shallow, vapid, self-absorbed douche-waffelry.
Rebecca similarly let her relationship with Rupert shape her into the evil Disney villain she was the majority of season 1. As she confessed to Ted, “That man, he knows me. I used to think his blunt honesty was noble rather than what it really is. Which is just... the cruelest way of hiding his own insecurities. He'd say wear this, eat that. And I listened. But now I'm alone. I'm alone, Ted. Just like he said I would be if I left. I don't want to be alone.” She let her pain from Rupert fester into bitterness, vengeance, and toxicity. She became more of a villain for a moment than Rupert was. She was willing to poison and sabotage the lives and well-being of hundreds of people just to satisfy her own vengeance.
And of course, we see what Nate’s bitterness and insecurities amounted to. His own self-loathing, his lack of approval from his father, his quick grasp of manipulation, and the way he clung to the praise of people. So much of all that was in him was just pain being poured out in bad ways.
As I sit writing this, I'm painfully aware of how similar things of all these characters have been avatars of my own issues, resolved or other. An absent mother from overworking to provide, a father who was gone most of my life before dying at a relatively young age in a long-drawn-out medical fiasco, marital problems and the bitterness it causes over years without being resolved, the impact of cancer, betrayal of friends, so many things all compile into a huge impact on how we live and react in this world. As Christians, Jesus knows how hard it is to function with all of these things placed on us.
In Matthew 11, Jesus tells us clearly that the stuff we carry from simply living in this world is too much for us to function with, and we need to be able to come unload it with Him.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” - Matthew 11:28-30.
He shows us that the collateral damage of life is more that we can withstand, but he wants to take it off our shoulders. He wants us to carry the light load of simply knowing we can rely on Him in these things. The same sentiment we hear echoed in 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” He wants us to hold nothing back, to let go of all that we are holding on to. But so often we hold on to so much of these things to the point it eats away at us. Now, before I use this verse, I am not calling pain, trauma, or anxiety sin. We clear on that? Cool. What we do see so often though is that our pain, anxiety, and trauma end up displaying in our lives through sinful actions, because it’s easier to cope with those things in an unhealthy manner than to actually be vulnerable enough to be open. We see it with Rebecca confessing to Ted, Jamie confessing to Roy, and so many times throughout the show and our lives, “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” - Proverbs 28:13.
So, is that my answer? Ted needs Jesus? Problem solved? All his problems will magically go away? Richmond will win, his family gets back together, and Nate’s hair goes back to black? Let me be super clear. Jesus is the ultimate grace for our souls. He is the ultimate source of salvation. He is the ultimate source for peace and purpose in our lives. Cool? With me? But if you have Jesus, and still refuse to deal with the pain and trauma in your life, you are still gonna struggle.
Ted didn’t trust the idea of therapy or counsel beyond the diamond dogs. Ted stated that his thoughts on therapy were “general apprehension and modest Midwest skepticism.” He went on to say “Part of me that doesn’t, you know, trust therapists. When Michelle and I did couples therapy, it was with this therapist she’d been going to for a while. I just kinda felt like I was being set up. Like I was going in there not to be listened to but rather, jut to hear about all the things I’d been doing wrong.” Ted thought Dr. Sharon, like all of the mental health field were just people in it for the money that honestly didn’t truly know them or care, so it was better in his eyes to hold on to those things that hurt him in such a vulnerable fashion. Like Ted, so many Christians are afraid to admit they have problems or issues. They feel like since they have a relationship with Jesus, it’s weakness to need any other help. They avoid counseling, therapy, or anything that makes them look like a weak or fallen Christian.
While Jesus never said “Hey, go to therapy,” the word of God is filled with people seeking wise counsel, and it seems like every other Proverb in the book of the same name, is on that very thing. Proverbs 12:15, Proverbs 11:14, Proverbs 15:22, Proverbs 24:6, Proverbs 28:26, Proverbs 19:20, Proverbs 1:5, and so many more all instruct us on the importance of not just relying on our own understanding and making sure we seek wise counsel and understanding. I’ve been in full time ministry since 1999 in some capacity or another. I’ve counseled countless people. I am an effective counselor. But you wanna know when my last official training in counseling was? 2000. It’s been 21 years since I've had formal counseling training. I can give you biblical wisdom all day long. I can tell you what the Bible says till my beard falls out, but I'm not as well equipped to help you unpack some issues as a professional counselor is. In my younger arrogance of ministry years, I would tell myself I was. But I’m not. The reality is, most pastors aren’t. There are just some people who are better trained and equipped. I can Ted Lasso my way through it. Try to care beyond my skills, but that doesn’t mean I'm effective. My church began partnering with a professional counseling team 2 years ago, and it’s been so fantastic to see. We can provide spiritual counsel, and then help connect them with people who have more training and equipping with dealing with stuff beyond our capabilities. I’ve seen people have not just spiritual clarity, but practical clarity too. This isn’t an advertisement for therapy or anything. This is just simply to say that if you are a Christian and still struggling, it’s ok to get more professional help. There’s no shame in that. Because when you are overwhelmed beyond your understanding, yes Jesus wants to take that weight off and give you a lighter yoke, but there is also great help in wise counsel.
When we try and hold it all in, we do a huge disservice and danger to ourselves. As coach beard told Ted, “You keep trying to hold all this in; and your mustache is gonna pop off.”
In February of 2021, I had my first real panic attack. Like vision narrowing, chest tightening, noise deafening panic attack. I’ve had anxiety issues before, but this was the first panic attack. We were 6 weeks into the process of my wife’s discovered cancer. We had had tests, biopsies, etc and had gone for a final consult before all the surgeries and treatments began. The doctor laid out that the cancer treatment plan was going to last potentially a year for all the surgeries, a year of follow up treatments, medications for a decade and so much more. As I was driving home from the appointment and my wife was explaining all of these things in practical terms for me, it hit me so hard. In my head I kept hearing, “A year!? A year!? We’re gonna be going through this for a whole year?!?!” Keep in mind, we found the cancer officially on December 30th 2020. I had just gone through a whole season of my life and ministry being shut down. The world closing and facing a pandemic.
2021 was supposed to be the sigh of relief. 2021 was going to be the year we got back to living. Then it became the time that cancer took. In that moment of realization, the panic attack hit. I was going 70 down the interstate and thought I was having a heart attack. I wasn’t ok and it wasn’t until that point that I realized it. So, when Ted had his panic attack at the Karaoke bar, I knew that feeling. It felt so accurate that I was actually worried I was having one for a moment. I’ve never stopped loving Jesus through any of this journey. But covid, cancer, career struggles, relationship struggles and all these things together have seriously taken a toll on my mental and emotional well-being. If I tried to hold them all in, you’d never be reading these words. This is a rough season in my life, but I know I can trust that Jesus can carry my burdens, and that when I need it, there are wise voices I can listen to. I’m not alone in this, and that’s so reassuring.
Ted gave a great speech as Richmond took their huge loss in season 1, and it’s an encouragement to me on a daily basis. “This is a sad moment right here—for all of us. And there ain’t nothing I can say standing in front of you right now that can take that away. Please do me this favor, will you? Lift your heads up and look around this locker room. Look at everybody else in here. And I want you to be grateful you’re going through this sad moment with all these other folks because, I promise you, there is something worse out there than being sad. And that is being alone and being sad. Ain’t no one in this room alone.”
I’m not alone in the things that wound me, and neither are you.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” - Psalm 34:18. Even in our sadness, we aren’t alone. And while Ted never wants to quit on others, God promises He never will, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” - Deuteronomy 31:8.
Pain will be present in this life. Pain will affect us. Pain will affect how we treat ourselves and others. We don’t have to hold on to that pain. God wants to take that weight from us. God has given us the people and the pressing to seek wise counsel, and in every bit of this we face, we are never alone.
**For more Ted talk, you can also check out the Ted discussion with pastor Chad Poe on Season 3: Episode 8 of the Faith & Fandom podcast. **