The Myth Of Winning


I've been thinking about winning today.  So I decided to do what most of us do when we start thinking about some big idea or another. I went to the interwebs. 

When I  started searching on the interwebs to help me think about winning more deeply, all I discovered was a series of odd quotes, strange images and lots and lots of articles and links having to do with politics and sports.  

There were all kinds of articles about how winning isn't as important as doing your best, and just as many more about how you learn more from losing than winning.  

Those kinds of quotes are nice to have in your back pocket when you are consoling your kid after she lost a soccer game, or didn't get a part in the play.  You'll have to give me some grace for what I'm about to say next...  

We may use those quotes to console other people, but deep inside we pretty much think that they're bulls**t.  We might learn things by losing, but we sure as heck would rather be winning because that's what we were meant to do, right?

I found these quotes during my search of the interwebs that offer a glimpse into how we have been programmed to think about winning and losing:

You were born to win. - Zig Ziglar
Winning is like shaving, you do it every day or you wind up looking like a bum – Jack Kemp
The person that said winning isn’t everything, never won anything. – Mia Hamm
My whole life is about winning. I don’t lose often. I almost never lose. – Donald Trump
There were hundreds of quotes like this.  Hundreds of images.  Hundreds of examples.

We are steeped in a culture of winning---mostly at all costs.  But this culture of winning is a myth that is born out of the darker myth of cultural exceptionalism.

Cultural exceptionalism isn't about just besting your opponent or finishing ahead of the pack... it's about thoroughly demonizing your alleged competition so that winning becomes a moral imperative.  

Lately, I have been wondering how a culture that is steeped in the myth of the absoluteness of winning at all costs, and grounded in the myth of cultural exceptionalism is faring in the current circumstances we find ourselves in right now.

Not very well, I'm thinking.  

I'm also wondering how so many Christians have bought into these myths, considering the exact opposite revelations about Jesus Christ in the Gospels.  Fr. Richard Rohr once wrote:  

Isn't it strange that Christians worship a God figure, Jesus, who appears to be very clearly losing by every criterion imaginable? And then we spend so much time trying to win, succeed and perform.  We even call Jesus's losing the very redemption of the world---yet we run from it.  
Success in the way our culture defines it is such an illusion.  So many of us strive and strive only to find the things that we were seeking to attain are still out of reach, or when we do grasp them, they turn to dust.  

I was reading something the other day that referenced an old Thomas Merton quote about the futility of this culture of winning.  Merton said:

People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success, only to find once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.  
Right now we have been given a gift---the gift of perspective.  All of our old paradigms have fallen apart.  We have a chance to do things differently and leave behind the mythology of winning and exceptionalism that we've believed for far too long.

And for those of us who call ourselves Christians--we have an opportunity to lead the way in this... we, who follow the One who gave up everything, even his own life to rescue us all.  

May it be so for us.  And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and for ever.  Amen.  

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