Winning at Losing

June 29, 2009 at 4:39 pm 19 comments

Winning isn’t everything, losing is. One of the biggest faults that I point out in my 11-year old son is that he is a sore loser. Whether it be striking out in a baseball game or a simple argument with his sister, he has a hard time losing. He wants to win, and for the better part of his life, things have come easily for him. One thing I’m confident about is his self-confidence.

But I’ve learned in parenting: When you find a glaring character fault in your child, you are glaring at yourself in the mirror. The little kid that looks just like you is like you.

At my middle age of 41, I’m learning lessons on losing. By and large, by God’s grace, the first half of my life has been filled with many wins in life. I’ve been raised in a loving Christian family, been granted a B.S./Ph.D./M.Div., been blessed with a wonderful wife & kids, a ministry and co-workers that would be the envy of many, and many more reasons to be grateful for life. But a dangerous byproduct of disproportionate self-confidence is that it leaves little room for confidence in Christ.

And so I’ve been thinking: Perhaps in being caught up with winning, I’ve lost out on the lessons of losing. After all, everyone will lose; even the best of winners will lose one day, if not every day in ways unknown…

Dr. Henry Cloud writes about losing well in his book, Integrity,

“[…] most important, the difference between winners and losers is not that winners never lose. The difference is that winners lose well, and losers lose poorly.”

I think the biggest winners are those who learn the painful lessons of losing well early on. In losing, you lose your pride and gain a chance to receive the gift of humility. And the humbler you are, the easier it is to “never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).

In life, people rush to pat winners on the back with a big “Congratulations!”  But now, I would much rather say to the loser, “Congratulations on your defeat because you’ve won an opportunity for Christ to be the Victor in your life!” I’m thankful all the more that God’s forgiveness, salvation, and love are all free to everyone in Christ. And that makes a loser like me (and you) a big winner of God’s amazing grace.

1 Peter 5:5-6 “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”

Entry filed under: About Life, Leadership Lessons, Ministry Lessons, Parenting Lessons.

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19 Comments Add your own

  • 1. akim  |  June 30, 2009 at 9:46 am

    Amen to that heartfelt truth…

  • 2. Ellen  |  June 30, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Thank you for writing this. I was really blessed to read this.

  • 3. Judy  |  June 30, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Another reminder that God’s measure of success is so different from this world that emphasizes winning. Thank you for sharing.

  • 4. Patrick  |  June 30, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Very true.

  • 5. MQ  |  June 30, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Well said, PJ. I shouldn’t be so afraid of losing to even try.

  • 6. Sijii Lee  |  June 30, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    How true – I never thought of it that way – worldy losing can increase my confidence in Christ. Thank you!

  • 7. jason  |  June 30, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    I must say, that when I first graduated college, I had an unhealthy degree of self-confidence, but after a series of disappointing life events, God really humbled me and gave me an opportunity to learn how to lose well. at the time, my leader actually said that he was actually glad that I experienced personal failure so young in my life because that lesson is much better to learn earlier than later in life. this statement didn’t make all that much sense back then, but now, I’m grateful to God that He has (and continues) to humble me and teach me to lose well, and bounce back from those times with greater dependency upon God.

  • 8. Anna  |  June 30, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    I think this is so true. As I deal with my 2 sons, I realize how I am not too well adjusted to handling the loss well either. I want my sons to be humble and gracious about losing b/c I learned just from life that I would rather be a loser who loses well than a winner. And it is true that it’s better that you learn this when you are young. It is much harder to lose well when you are not used to it. I see people with so much potential failing in life b/c they just cannot handle losing to someone else. I believe this is a practice… a practice that I wish I was engaged in when I was young. That much more, I want my sons to be engaged in this practice of “losing well” at young age. Hopefully, they will thank me one of these days.

  • 9. cjoonko  |  June 30, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m a recent grad from Berkeley trying to center my life around Christ and regain confidence in Him. This bit of wisdom on losing well will go a long way for me. Thank you.

  • 10. Jen Tse  |  July 1, 2009 at 8:21 am

    I’m glad to have this church teach me how to humble myself & losing/failing is no big deal as long as I’m not afraid to try again. I enjoy watching sports especially baseball & basketball, but doesn’t like to play a lot in public cause I know I’m not that good at it… Recently I read an article by a Christian J. Matthew Sleeth, MD about what the Bible thinks about sports.
    “Yet, Jesus is silent on the subject of sports. None of the gospels mention sports. And Paul mentions athletic training only as a metaphor for spiritual fitness. Why? Is it because getting into heaven has nothing to do with being a sports fan? Could it be that the victor/vanquished inherent in sports has no analog in God’s kingdom? Is it because sports are a glorification of temporal man, and not of God? Is it because if we simply believe in Jesus, we win? Physical activity is necessary to a wholesome life. But a growing state-sponsored and state-promoted worship of sports is in conflict with church and family. When sports compete with God in America, God loses.”

  • 11. Tony Kim  |  July 1, 2009 at 10:55 am

    Thank you for sharing! Thank you for further instilling the understanding that personal humility is not only an appropriate picture of reality but also an opportunity for Christ to be Victor in our lives.

    Tony Kim
    Gracepoint Berkeley

  • 12. DP  |  July 1, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Thank you for sharing! Honestly I have been recently reminded how I am maladjusted to losing. Thank you for reminding me the reality in Christ, and directing me to the source of true victor, Christ.

  • 13. JLee  |  July 1, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    thanks for the sharing!

  • 14. carmen  |  July 2, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    Thanks for your sharing. I am still learning how to lose graciously. In the end it doesn’t matter when Christ my Lord won the greatest battle against my sin and death.

  • 15. jcha  |  July 2, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    thanks for sharing this Pastor Jonathan. It’s true that the world tells you “you’re a loser” but in God we gain so much more..

  • 16. David Kim  |  July 4, 2009 at 12:20 am

    Thanks and its encouraging even though I’m a sure loser in most of things….lots of thing. That’s what makes me cling onto Christ more. Sure I hate to lose but Jesus is my winner 🙂

  • 17. DW  |  July 7, 2009 at 8:31 am

    yep, i definitely have experienced losing for the sake of God achieving something better in me, which is being a more genuine child of God and saved sinner

  • 18. Dom  |  July 8, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Thanks for sharing!

  • 19. GK  |  July 11, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    thanks for sharing! it is very true about losing well..


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About Joong “Jonathan” Lee

This weblog contains thoughts & reflections as I pastor Gracepoint Austin Church (previously at Gracepoint Davis and Berkeley Churches) and engage in various ministries.


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