Manners: When Winners Lose

One of the reasons I do not particularly like competitive sports is “winners.” A turn of a foot, a play that is only successful one in eight times can win or lose a game. Yes, there is skill. And there is “will” to be the best. These help – but usually (not always, but all-to-often) when you come to things like “championships” they are (or should be!) close on skill and will. The best games are the ones where everyone is guessing who will win. They are fun to watch. They are tense to play.

The players who walk away from those games are disappointed. Man do I get that… that is an awful feeling. And the winners are elated. Who wouldn’t be? Especially for those massive games where it was close and no one knows who will walk out victorious.

You see, there are the winners who rub it in. They wear their badges of honor and wins and tell everyone how amazing they are. Their win was only impressive because they managed to eke one more goal or run or point than the other team. And sometimes it was luck more than skill.  It was combination of throwing, good shoes, no pebbles, and JUST the right angle. A hair in a different direction and the game could have been vastly different.

One of the skills that is rarely taught now (or doesn’t seem to be) is the concept of humility. Merriam-Webster’s definition for those who don’t speak English is:

the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people : the quality or state of being humble

Winning when you are much better at something than the other person isn’t fun. Just watch any adult playing tic-tac-toe with a toddler/very-small child. It isn’t fun to WIN against them because the odds aren’t even in the same realm.  The adult IS better than the child – they are older and wiser and lost tic-tac-toe a lot themselves before learning the tricks.

So when you win a tight “game” and you want to celebrate – start by thanking the other team/person. Thank them for pushing you to be your absolute best. Thank them for making that mountain damn hard. Thank them with all the sincerity that it was their loss and their battle which made your win so awesome. You weren’t playing against a toddler, you played against an equal.

This is the essence of humility.  This acknowledgement that no success is isolated and the greatest successes (think about the Manhattan project or the moon race) are when the opponents are stronger because of the other. Would we have made it to the moon in less than 10 years if USSR hadn’t been pushing us? I doubt it.  Look at how little distance the USA has gone since we lost that great rivalry to push us, challenge us, and encourage us.

Next time you win, look at who pushed you; who challenged you; and who helped you.  Thank them. Thank them all.