Losers. Everyone hates to be called a loser, right? We want to be winners; successful achievers and role models. John Ortberg writes, “The problem with spending your life climbing up the ladder is that you will go right past Jesus, for he’s coming down.” Here are 4 winning reasons to be a good loser.
I recently finished reading When the Game Is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box by John Ortberg, and was inspired to explore what it means to be a good loser. I recommend this book, it’s witty, gritty, and really makes you think. We are embarking on a new project – exploring what it means to finish well, and this book was one I had been waiting to savor.
I know, we all hate to face this reality, but no one gets through this life without losing at least once. We lose things, for instance. US News and World Report found that the average American spends one year of their life looking for missing items. For me, it’s probably more like 3 or 4 years. I’m notorious for losing things.
We hate to lose things. Here’s an interesting fact. More items go missing at 6:00 pm on Saturdays in December than at any other time. Although one graph I saw showed July was a close second.
A loser can be defined as someone who has no money, no job, no family, and no friends. But one writer claimed that a loser is really someone who does not trust, love or respect others. He gives this list of loser qualities:
- Inhibited Integrity
- Unnecessary gossip and slander
- Chronic pessimism
- Pass an injured man
- No ambitions
- Mean and hateful
- Quit before you sweat
- Closed mindedness
- Take no responsibility
I want to read that list and shake my head in disbelief. Can you imagine – some people! But God agrees that we are all losers at one time or the other. The Bible says it this way: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). No one is perfect, I can honestly say that I have been trapped by each of those items. The Bible even has a comeback for those who think they are perfect: “if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). So everyone is actually a loser.
People like a Good Loser
No one likes to see a winner rub it in the face of the losers. In 2016 the NFL had to start coming down hard on players who displayed too much enthusiasm when they got a touchdown. Called “Excessive Celebration”, they even went so far as to define specific celebratory actions that were ok and weren’t ok.
People who are bad winners are show-offs, braggarts, egotists. Donald Trump inspires very negative feelings, perhaps because of his brash attitude. When we know someone like this, we doubt everything about them, we come to conclusions about their integrity, their respect, their intelligence, and their character.
Bad losers aren’t too popular either. We use descriptive words for bad losers: grouch, malcontent, party pooper, sourpuss, spoil-sport. As a kid I was taught “it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” But comical renditions include
- It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s whether you win.
- It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s where you place the blame.
We don’t like rub-it-in-your-face winners, and we don’t like bad losers. But people like a good loser. Humble people are likable. When we can admit our faults humbly and ask for forgiveness sincerely, relationships can be restored. The pastors at our church are very open about admitting their faults. One new friend remarked that after a month at our church she knew more about the failings of our pastor than she did about her previous pastor, a personal friend for years. Many people are drawn to our church just because of this rare openness. It is rare to find people who are good losers.
When we are open about our failures, we inspire others to be open as well. Secretly we all know we fail, but everyone is afraid to admit it. If one person is brave enough to be real, to take off the mask and let others see their frail humanity, other people will begin to be genuine too. That’s the sweet spot of personal growth.
You really have Nothing to Lose
What do we stand to ‘lose’ if we are good losers? Pride is the only thing I can think of. Our competitiveness can be a desire to be better than other people.
Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Christ taught this amazing humility to us, and asks us to imitate him. Healing relationship issues, in my experience, cannot be done when I feel better than my prickly person. Contempt is the opposite of humble love. Contempt is gross pride and arrogance, and is a sinful attitude. I am not better than anyone else!
The Bible even goes so far as to say we could lose everything, even our lives, still we aren’t losers in his eyes.
Matthew 10:39: “whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
Jesus was not co-dependent, and he isn’t asking us to give up our lives for the sake of other people. The key phrase “for my sake” is important. If we give up ourselves; our rights, our purpose, our significance, for other people – that’s co-dependence.
But if we give up ourselves for the sake of Jesus, that’s losing for the sake of winning. That’s how we transform relationships. God isn’t asking us to be a doormat!
Losing is more Profitable than Winning
Losing teaches us valuable lessons. Personal growth happens when we lose. Someone who always wins and never loses will develop low self-esteem. They secretly know they can’t handle reality. And they are probably right!
Many successful people weigh in on the value of failure:
- Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. Henry Ford
- Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm. Winston Churchill
- I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. Thomas Edison
- Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success. Dale Carnegie
- There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure. Colin Powell
- Remember that failure is an event, not a person. Zig Ziglar
The Bible has a lot to say about the blessings of being a good loser. James says it this way: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
Being a good loser requires grace. “It means learning to let go of an outcome I cannot change but to hold on to the will to live fully and well.” John Ortberg
What have you learned by losing? Share a lesson with us.
…because U count, deb