Winning and Losing

Balls!

Image by gingerbeardman via Flickr

I went to see the movie “Moneyball” starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill with my lovely husband tonight. The movie stirred up a topic that I have been thinking about for a while – the emotional dichotomy of winning and losing. Anybody who has played any kind of moderately competitive game will know the thrill of a win and the sagging defeat of a loss. But what if as a spectator you practice compassion for both sides? What then?

We have many examples of us-vs.-them activities in our western world. Even Scrabble is competitive these days. But us-vs.-them thinking runs counter to problem solving or to generating a peaceful, more compassionate world.

True compassion is something that is present for your best friend and worst enemy. Compassion is the act of seeing beyond the outward exterior acts of a person to understand the common humanity we all share. We were all little babies, we all die, and ultimately we all want to be happy. Compassion is the ability to separate the person from the things they do, to look for the causes of another’s bad behaviour, and to understand that only people who are deeply wounded do terrible things.

Compassion, however, is not turning a blind eye to the problems of the world, or excusing the terrible atrocities that are far too prevalent in life. Compassion is about seeing all sides of an issue and seeking to find a way that roots out the cause of a problem. Compassion is asking yourself “Why on earth did they do that?” and not stopping at the simplistic answer “Because they are evil”.

Think back to watching a sports game. You are cheering for your team. When they are winning, it is hard to see a problem with the us-vs.-them dichotomy. After all it feels exhilarating to win; What could possibly be the problem with that? Except when your team is losing. That sucks, plain and simple. But what if, in that instant, you shift your focus from identifying with the losing team to the winning team? If you stop seeing them as the ‘other guys’, then you begin to cheer for them too. Now shift back to the losers, you see the tears in their eyes and relate to that feeling. We have all been there. Things seem bleak, your hopes have been crushed, but yet, we know that these things are temporary, that life goes on and that as long as you are breathing you are living.

Does the concept of most competitive games crumble when you view them through the eyes of compassion? What is the point of winning anyway? Is it gloating? Is it the ego trip of dominating another or demonstrating that you are the best? If a person’s sense of self is confined to ratings and points and external approval, then wining becomes crucial, in fact it becomes the only thing. But if you have a balanced and healthy self-esteem, where you have a deep knowing that you are good, then do you stop needing competitive wins to fill you up? If you appreciated the thrill of the game and the skill of the players, would it matter who won? Would we stop keeping score? Would we look through the eyes of another and finally see ourselves for the first time?

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