Somewhat ironically, the last thing I wrote about was humility. While that isn’t ironic in and of itself, my example about losing creates a certain tone with where my thoughts are imbedded today.
Winning. Yep, winning. With the Olympics on the down swing, there is a lot of discussion about the medal count. How many medals has the USA racked up versus the rest of the world? Are we winning?
I don’t find this all to be bad, especially in the amount of sportsmanship that is regularly demonstrated in games such as these. I’m actually beginning to believe that I might be a dying minority (or at least one of the few outspoken to the otherwise underground movement) that agrees with a win/lose system. Ok, so not necessarily in every situation, but let’s continue on in the arena of sports since we’re already there.
I know that I will probably get some major backlash for this, but I find it ridiculous that we give awards for everything. First place, last place, it doesn’t matter. You’re all winners! Seriously, it’s ludicrous. Those of you who are already wording your comment to massacre me, bare with me a minute. I do understand the mentality behind this. I also understand how incredibly insensitive children can be in light of triumphing over their opponent. Let’s face it, adults are even worse. Going back to my previous post, we don’t understand humility. But I think that’s why having everyone as a winner is so wrong.
“It’s how we win that matters.”
I just watched Ender’s Game and that was the line that resonated with me. I won’t go into an explanation on the movie (especially since the line comes at a pivotal time in the plot), but the reality is that the quote can stand alone.
If we never have a distinct winner in a race, what is the point of racing? Same thing for a game. When I was coaching a high school varsity girl’s lacrosse team, we wanted to win. The girls gave up their afternoons to be pushed physically and mentally on the field at practice to prepare for the game. This past year was miserably difficult because we only won a single game. So why bother? We bothered because how we lost (as well as how we won the one game), improved who we were as individuals.
If I, as their coach, cursed and threw a fit after the loss, then what am I showing those girls? If, likewise, after the game that we won, I mocked the other team for not being good enough or strong enough, what does that teach them?
Sportmanship is a learned quality. Yes, we want to encourage our kids and to uplift them, especially in defeat. But if they never learn how to lose, then they will have an even harder time when they win. We as humans need to understand both defeat and victory to learn how to be humble despite our circumstances. We need to learn how to push harder for what we want, especially when the odds are stacked against us. Because it is in that moment, when we put in everything that we have, we show our true character in the outcome. The responses following the Canada victory over the US in women’s hockey game this afternoon is proof of this.
Up to the last minute and a half, the US had it. They were about to win the Olympic gold and finally beat their nemesis. But, in overtime, they were defeated. You could see the heartbreak and disappointment on their faces. In post game interviews there was no bashing of the other team or complaining about calls made by the refs. There were no excuses that said anything about it not being fair. It was gracious to how the Canadians rallied in the final minutes and how, in time, they will be proud of what they were able to accomplish in winning a silver medal at the Olympic games.
You can be excited in a victory without demeaning the one who was defeated. But, in order to learn how to do that, you have to have winners and losers. It’s a hard lesson to learn but if we continue to give awards for 15th place, it won’t be learned. Instead we will raise a group of people who feel so entitled, when they have to compete for a scholarship or a job position, they won’t know how to graciously accept defeat or victory. When they are passed up for someone else, it won’t be a “let me go back and see how I can improve.” It will be “that’s not fair! I should have won.”
We deserve nothing. Until we understand that we can never understand humility, or sportsmanship, or for that matter, grace. Yes, grace.
If we continue to believe that we are entitled to whatever we want and that we should never lose, how can we come to grips with the reality that in life and death, we deserve death.
“For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.” Romans 6:23
If you want to grapple with what you or I “deserve,” the book of Romans has a humbling revelation for you. Nothing we can do can conquer this life, but God is gracious and redeeming and has allowed a way for us to be redeemed to himself.
If we don’t understand what it means to lose a silly game, how can we ever come to understand what it means to lose everything-our life and even more so, our eternity. If we don’t know how to relate to a “loser” how can we understand how to be a gracious “winner” and reach out to those who have yet to even start their race?
This is the goal that I seek to teach my kids. That they will be able to understand and appreciate both winning and losing. For them to know that we seek after an eternal prize, that we can’t win on our own. To teach them to do the very best they can with the gifting that God has given them and to run to finish the race victoriously.
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” Acts 20:24