To Win is to Lose

I just watched a vital, yet disturbing documentary film called Bully.  If you have never seen it, it is available on Netflix.  The movie looks at the bullying phenomenon through the eyes of several teenage “victims” who attend schools scattered across the midwest.  I use the word “disturbing” in reference to this film not just because it’s difficult to watch defenseless kids being terrorized by bullies, but because it touches on a subject that hits very close to home for most guys.

One particular moment in the film made my hair stand on end.  After repeatedly enduring everything from threats of death, physical abuse, and name-calling that would make Mike Tyson cringe, a junior high student named Alex finally blows the whistle on his tormentors and tells his parents about his situation.  In the midst of his harrowing confessional, Alex’s mom asks him how the other kids make him feel.  With tears in his eyes, this gentle, broken kid simply says, “It makes me want to become the bully.”

You would be hard-pressed to find a man who doesn’t relate to this sentiment, because nearly all of us have walked in Alex’s shoes.

When I was in junior high there were two (and only two) categories of dudes in my school.  There were the bullies, and there were those who got bullied.  Not everyone was the target of daily afterschool beatings of course, but nearly all of us were traumatized in some way by a bigger, stronger, or more popular classmate.  And those of us who didn’t have the stature, athletic prowess, popularity, or straight-up gaul to push others around were quietly envious of those who did–if for no other reason than because the bullies were able to avoid having shards of their manhood stripped away in front of their peers.

Those difficult, teenage years of torment taught us something crucial about life as guys in this world…

You either punch or you get punched.  You either go on the offensive in life, or you get beaten down. 

These are the unspoken rules of our gender: We must, above all else, looking more impressive than the next guy.  Weakness is disgusting.  These rules also dictate that in order to get ahead we have to step on anyone in our path.  To be a man, you have to become Machiavellian in how you approach career, social standing, the opposite sex, and success in life itself.  And if you don’t, and you will become the weak, the “loser.”  Oh, and along the way you have to look “cool” even if it means making someone else feel less cool in the process.

Many of us have carried these unspoken rules into adulthood.

And in the process we have become impenetrable fortresses, never showing weakness, never hinting at so much as a hairline fracture in our armor, lest we become the objects of ridicule, just like we did when we were teens.

Not all of us bear the obvious stamp of these mantras.  But all of us have been subtly affected by them, at the very least.  And this type of thinking has played a role in leaving us lost, empty, and purposeless.  We lead double lives because we cannot possibly hope to mesh our real weaknesses and fears with our alleged, flawless exteriors.  We are isolated, troubled, and our souls are crying out for a different philosophy of living.

But, if we have truly been placed on this earth to step on others in an attempt to wring out as much material gain, popularity, and ego-stroking as possible in life, then why do we feel incomplete?  If we are supposed to hide our true selves, our issues, and especially our flaws, why do we feel isolated?

Because “winning” in life involves something else entirely than these unspoken rules tell us.

It’s time we unlearn the lessons that were branded on our hearts by the traumatic experiences of our youth.  It’s time we dig our fingernails into the reality that we were not created to be mini-Machiavellis, social capitalists, or cutthroat businessmen.  We were not created to step on others to find our self-actualization on this planet. Jesus showed us that it is possible to be a true man without living for any of these things.

We were made to be vindicators of the oppressed, rather than vessels of oppression.  We were made to be worshippers of a power greater than our own egos. To find our purpose here is to admit that winning is losing, and losing is playing the game to win.  To find our purpose here is to redefine the very rules that make us men.

Our place is found here, together, in seeking truth that defies the spirit of this age.  Our place is found here, becoming men who are united in vulnerability, character, and candid fellowship which offers a voice to the voiceless.

Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. – Psalm 82:3

Grab a copy of The Tin Soldiers, my new book for men.  You can also get multiple copies for your small group at a discount.


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About Andrew Schwab

Andrew Schwab is the author of five books and has written for publications which include Relevant Magazine, Time/Life, HM, CCM, and Alternative Press. He has spoken at over two hundred festivals, conferences, churches, schools, and fellowships all over the world. His band, Project 86, has sold nearly 500,000 albums worldwide.

  • Anthony Lange

    I enjoyed your blog about bullying and can relate to what you said about the impact on young boys. I myself wasn’t a bullied much but unfortunately saw many incidents when I was younger. One thing I wish I would’ve done is step in and stop the bullying. It wasn’t like I couldn’t have but at the time I didn’t realize the damage it could do.

    My daughter is part of a drama group called the Bullycide project that travels around the country showing the impact of bullying and how to stop it. Their drama is based on the book called Bullycide. Documenting the lives and eventual suicide of kids who were bullied. The trailer for their show is at
    I thought you might want to check it out.
    Thanks for all you do
    Linden, Michigan

  • Donald Borsch Jr

    “We were made to be vindicators of the oppressed, rather than vessels of oppression.”

    This might, at first glance, fly in the face of “mainstream Christianity”, but here’s how my spirit functions in such circumstances:

    –>When a person is being mocked or bullied due to a physical defect, I step in and draw my sword.
    –>When a person is being mocked or bullied due to a mental weakness, I step in and draw my sword.
    –>When a person is being mocked or bullied by others due to their gender, I step in and draw my sword.
    –>When a person is being mocked or bullied due to socio-economic status, I step in and draw my sword.
    –>When a person is being mocked or bullied due to their faith in Christ, I keep my sword in its sheath.

    Now, this is not to say I am the aggressor, no. I’m not. But I refuse to stand idle when hatred and vitriol is poured out arrogantly against those who are perceived as being weaker. Unlike some of my brothers in Christ, I will respond to hatred and violence with an equal measure thereof, because Jesus didn’t save me to be a doormat due to secular or worldy reasons. And I loathe the false spirit behind bullies and their need to intimidate. One thing I have noticed is that upon confronting and defeating a bully controlled by such a false spirit, the bully opens himself up to Christ. Defeat can be a great catalyst for The Spirit, indeed. Show the bullies that not all Christians are weeping and timid punching bags and things happen in the spiritual that usually lead to a harvest.

    Living a peaceful life is possible, to be sure. I prefer peace, tranquility, and nestling myself within the Rest of The Lord. But this does not mean any of us are to be doormats. Now then, if we are oppressed or persecuted because we are as sons of God and His Name is written on our hearts, that’s a different story altogether.