Do You Win Well?

Half Dome from North Dome, Yosemite National Park, California
Half Dome from North Dome, Yosemite National Park, California

Some years ago (ok, quite a few years ago), my younger brother and I took our driver’s tests on the same day.  Through the workings of the system more than because of our driving capabilities, I received my license that day, while he did not.  (I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice to say that he was and is a much better driver than me.)  Of course, we got home and had to tell the family about our tests.  I wasn’t going to rub it in that I’d passed and he hadn’t.  But it’s hard when you’ve won a big victory not to at least smile a big grin.  It’s a pretty big win to pass your driver’s test on the first try.

Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mabry Mill, Virginia
Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mabry Mill, Virginia

When you’ve seen a victory – especially when it’s a big victory – it’s right and proper to be excited.  It’s great to rejoice and even make a show of how happy you are.  Those who are mature will rejoice with you, whether or not they agree with you.  (After all, the Bible says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice… live in harmony with one another.  Do not be proud” (Romans 12:15a,16a).)

Hiking across the Causeway, Flat Tops Wilderness, Colorado
Hiking across the Causeway, Flat Tops Wilderness, Colorado

But chances are that any big victory you see will have its detractors.  Someone, somewhere, and sometimes plenty of people, will see your victory as a failure, a disaster, exactly what they didn’t want to see happen.  Sometimes these nay-sayers have logic or at least experience on their side.  When we’re faced with the detractors from our victory – the people who don’t agree with us, the people who wanted a different outcome for whatever reason, sinful or righteous – it’s our choice how we treat them.  In fact, how we treat the people who lose says a lot about our own maturity and whether we win well or poorly.

Sunset at the Tuweep Campground, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Sunset at the Tuweep Campground, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

When I was young, I played on an informal t-ball team with some friends.  At the end of the games, the coaches would line us up to high-five the opposing team and say, “Good game!”  It didn’t matter who had won or lost, it was always, “Good game!”  Most of the kids (even at six years old) had enough maturity to agree it had been a good game even if we’d lost badly.  But a few were competitive enough to be poor sports about losing.

Paintbrush flower on the trail to McNeil Point, Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon
Paintbrush flower on the trail to McNeil Point, Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon

As I said before, it’s great to rejoice over our victory; it’s one of the ways we demonstrate thankfulness.  But in our rejoicing, we also must treat the losers with grace and compassion.  They’ve just lost, sometimes quite badly, what they had hoped and dreamed for.  We don’t have to curtail our rejoicing.  But even if their dream was sin, we still have an obligation to treat the losers well.

The west fork of Gavilan Creek, Carson National Forest, New Mexico
The west fork of Gavilan Creek, Carson National Forest, New Mexico

In the book of Proverbs 22, the second Saying of the Wise admonishes the reader to not oppress the poor.  The Lord will take up their case for them and bring back on you what you’ve done to them (see vv.22-23).  How we treat people affects how we’ll be treated later, even by God (see Matthew 18:21-35).

Swiftcurrent Pass Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana
Swiftcurrent Pass Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana

If we want to win well, we must do more than just see the victory.  Seeing a win isn’t the ultimate win – it’s how we steward our triumph that makes us win well.  If we can rejoice over what God has done in His faithfulness and mercy while at the same time not crushing the losers, we’ll be well on our way to a definitive victory instead of a temporary one.