I have been a sports junky since my elementary school days. When we were younger, my wife once quipped that if my knowledge of the bible rivaled my base of useless sports knowledge, I would be a much better preacher…thanks for the encouragement. While my sports interests and viewing have narrowed greatly in the last few years, there is still something special to me about how intertwined our sports are with our culture. I am slowly becoming one of those old(er) guys who says, “the game was better when I was a kid.” There is a romanticism attached to athletic heroes of the past, their feats increasing in stature as the years pass. We are moved by the unlikely underdog and see ourselves in their ascension. We are inspired by the grit and toughness of those who push through adversity to attain heights unimagined. We celebrate with joy the thrill of victory and even the agony of defeat finds its way into the category of precious memories as time marches onward.
Sports, like other arenas of life, has its own vernacular. It has a language within the greater national language and as a fan you pick up on it…your fandom is often critiqued on your ability to wield the language of your preferred sport sufficiently. Within that language are sayings, axioms, and thought processes that are held in high esteem and elevated as the standard for those who would hope to reach the pinnacle…they are the way it should be…the way a person should think. One such phrase is especially revered…
“I hate losing, more than I love winning.”
This declaration usually rings from the lips of an uber competitive, highly skilled athlete who by sheer force seems to will his or her team to victory. You can see this phrase in Michael Jordan’s scowl, you can hear it in the primal scream of Russell Westbrook, you could feel it emanating from the stoicism of Tiger Woods on the golf course and you can perceive it in the disgust on Tom Brady’s face after a loss. To hate losing is lauded as the height of competitiveness. However, for every Jordan, Westbrook, Tiger and Brady there are thousands who hate losing and rather than driving them to the pinnacle it oppresses them in the depths.
This is not only true in sports, but life as a whole, and it is especially manifest in the life of a leader. To be motivated by a disdain for losing, or failing, is to allow oneself to be governed illegitimately. This mentality creates an insurmountable deficit in the soul. To begin with a base of hate, or extreme dislike, is to open the gate for fear, insecurity and ironically, even intimidation. For every Jordan, who kept going after being cut as a freshman, and willed himself to greatness, there is an unbelievably lengthy line of people who refrained from pushing through because the sting, embarrassment, fear of failure compelled them to not fully try. To be afraid to fail is to be saturated in insecurity. The one who hates to lose more likely than not, will gravitate toward self-centeredness, self-preservation, a bad attitude and being a bad teammate because psychologically they take up residence in their fears rather than their hopes.
To the contrary, the person who loves to win will always take a chance because of the possibility of winning. The person who lives and leads with hope will routinely throw his or her hat in the ring and live with optimism. To the one who hates to lose, a victory only brings momentary relief, until they are again faced with their fear. To the one who loves to win, a victory can be relished, celebrated, enjoyed. There is no peace for the one in fear. There is pervasive peace for the one who hopes.
As a follower of Jesus and leader in his Church, for many years I unknowingly wrestled with the hatred of losing vs. the love of winning. I feared failure, worried about not measuring up, was consumed with accomplishment…not because I wanted to “win” but because I was insecure and thought anything less than supreme accomplishment diminished me as a person. Through the years I have determined to not live at an emotional deficit. The foundational disposition of my life will be the hope of winning without regard for the losing and failing. The thrill of victory remains a greater governing power than the agony of defeat.
**Author note: My wife was right…less sports, more bible makes a better preacher.