Almost every weekend when my now two older children were younger, we would find ourselves at the soccer field for about 3-months out of the year. Something that I would find at the games consistently, both good and disturbing at the same time was the attitude and idea that no kid really ever loses while playing their game. We created a zone, that once the teams entered the field, it was to be all about them, which I totally supported, and still do, however, I must admit it felt a bit weird and very unrealistic after the games when my children only knew when they had allegedly won a game, but when they had not done so well from a scoring standpoint, (in other words, lost) it was not to be discussed.
The whole preface of this concept went against everything that I stood for as a parent, back then and today. I mean on the one hand I was all for supporting our youth by sending positive messages while they focused on having fun and learning the game of soccer, however I was not supportive of lying to them, telling them half-truths or disclosing only the good stuff to make them happy. If group sports are a way to help kids build life skills, and a way to teach them how to work well with others, especially during difficult times, I felt that we were doing them a disservice by not disclosing the reality of what losing really felt liked, looked liked and the wonderful lessons to be learned from experiencing it. So on our drive home, when my kids would wonder who won or lost their game for the day, I told them even when I knew it would make them sad, because after all, that’s real life isn’t it? I certainly saw the looks of disappointment on their faces when they realized that they loss that day, but it opened up the door for many great teaching moments, with the main lesson being,
Sometimes in life we lose, but it’s okay.
How does this lesson transcend into our todays, our lives? How do we as adults deal with loss, disappointment, being on the short-end of the stick, being dumped or left for dead? (emotionally and physically) It’s certainly a question for us to grapple with, because as we know, it cannot be avoided or pushed under the rug of life. If we attempt to do that, the results only last temporarily and will typically hit us in the face much harder at some point later. So facing the reality of loss is imperative and probably best when we deal with it when the sting is still fresh and new. Ouch!
If someone were able to come along and take away all the emotional pain I felt during the worse times in my life, I’m sure I would have considered it for a moment, however losing has taught me some of my most treasured and significant lessons that I have ever learned while on my now 46-year life journey. And quite honestly, I do not believe I would be the man I am today without the experiences of loss, pain and disappointment.
There is something about our character development that is directly tied to how we engage or disengage with ourselves when we suffer.
I’ve always said that, “If you really want to know who you are or anyone else for that matter, recognize how you or they respond during a tragedy. There you will find the real you. If you don’t like what you see, begin to make the necessary changes.” That may sound a bit cruel, but what better way to know? I have claimed to be many things in my life and some of them I can attest that I followed through on, but what about those failures? What about those times when I let people down, when I didn’t come through like I said I would? It feels bad, but it feels even worse when those same people inform you of how much you have disappointed them. Those are the times when you usually want to go find a rock to crawl under. Although that rock (which represents avoidance) may seem and feel like the best choice to make at the time, I have three suggestions (what I call the “The Three A’s“) that are indeed painful, maybe even a bit embarrassing, but have proven to the best for the long haul, at least for me.
1. Acknowledge what you have done – some of us our taught to deny the truth and eventually the accuser will stop pursuing it. This can be very invalidating for the one who was wronged and it never actually works out. It will only damage the trust and suffocates the ability to restart. When you own it with words and actions, it causes actual healing to begin.
2. Apologize – this is not a simple and lame, “I’m sorry for whatever I’ve done moment”, but an actual heartfelt and sincere opportunity of taking responsibility. Telling someone who you’re sorry requires courage, but it will release suppressed feelings that build walls of resentment and bitterness when harnessed. When done with the right intentions, this truly is the step where restoration can begin to occur, even if only in very small increments at first.
3. Answer for what you have done – Once you have acknowledged and apologized for your sin, the hardest part is answering for it. This will cost you something (possibly literally), but it is often what is essential to make your accuser whole. I call this “the hard thing”, because it’s where most of us stop. We can justify that the two previous actions were enough. My question is, were they really? Don’t forsake an opportunity to experience an amazing act of love that places you in rare company. A company where true humility is seen, not only heard and defenses on both sides become a thing of the past.
For me to come to this place in my life required a counter-intuitive decision. That decision was to realize that I had lost. I loss my right to fight, I loss my right to tell more lies, I loss my right to make more excuses, I loss my right to defend myself…I had lost, and this was painfully awkward because no one wants to lose. But it was during this season of loss that I discovered something that has forever changed my life. That is, unlike a sport, game or societal judgement, I am not measured by the amount of wins or losses I have incurred over the years, but I am measured by my ability to confess my faults, speak the truth in love and love God with all my heart, mind and soul. This will always make me a winner, but never totally separate me from truly understanding that in order to win, sometimes I may have to lose first. And that’s okay.