There is something intoxicating about the feeling of a win. Life is full of challenges, ups and downs, struggles and tragedies. We are all searching for a sense of victory. A triumph.
I am not very competitive, but I know a lot of competitive people. It’s hard to explain that jolt of exuberance that comes when we win a game of ping-pong or backgammon, let alone the State Championship or the Super Bowl.
There is a sense in which this is extremely healthy. We are made to pursue victory, to chase after betterment, joy, and peace. The promise of victory pushes us through trials, motivates us for perseverance, and gives us a sense of participation in the life of meaning we ultimately long for.
Of course, us being human, we often make a mess of this. And one of the biggest messes we make is mixing the metaphor for ultimate reality. Sports and games are meant to bring out this desire for greatness within us, to represent the cause of character. But they are not indicative of it. Winning a game is not the same as winning at life. No matter how much we pay professional athletes or dream of fame and glory. It is all a metaphor. But a metaphor for what? What does it truly mean to win?
Casting the Teams
When I was a teenager, I had an interesting conversation with a good friend of mine. Neither of us had even been in a fistfight before and I was telling my friend that sometimes I wanted to get into a fight just to see how I’d do. He laughed and nodded in vigorous agreement, “yes, just to see how my perception of how I would do would match up to reality.”
This is the heart of most superficial competition. We want to measure ourselves against others, to see where we rank in the pecking order. It is a very personal order – us against the world.
While this can be helpful in certain senses, the trouble comes when we try to apply the same set of parameters in our relationships or jobs.
What I mean is we cast the teams wrong. We take a personal view of marriage and think the teams are husband versus wife. And as the spouses fight and compete to see who gets their way, who is validated and approved, the marriage erodes. The same thing happens at work. We think we are on a team by ourselves, trying to prove our worth over and against our colleagues. And the result is a toxic work environment where everyone is out to get one another rather than accepting they are on the same team with the same goals.
Defining A Win
When it comes to relationships, work, and even personal character growth, it is important for us to take the time to define what it means to win. To truly be victorious.
We don’t need any help with selfishness. From the time we are children, we are barking about what is mine while our parents are begging us to share. But as we grow and mature, we need to rethink and reset these patterns to realize our personal success and the success of others are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they are mutually inclusive!
In our marriage, we have defined what it means to win by setting a THERE statement. It reminds us of what the trophy truly is and that it takes both of us to get there. When we are fighting, we often remind one another, “remember we are on the same team”. Our fragile egos feel threatened and endangered when we face obstacles and we too often think victory requires blame-casting and tearing down everything around us.
We need each other to win. In order to truly experience victorious living, we need to compete against superficiality, complacency, and falsity rather than competing against one another.