Tuesday, February 25, 2020

What to do with a loss...

Last Sunday we enjoyed a family trip to Ames to watch the Iowa State women play basketball in the afternoon and then saw our first wrestling meet in Hilton. Jaylyn was excited to not only watch the game, but also for the opportunity to say hi to her favorite Cyclone, Maddie Wise. The game was intense and entertaining. The home team fell behind, but fought their way back only to lose on a questionable foul in the final seconds. It was a heartbreaker.

Following the game, we met up with Maddie. Everyone enjoyed the conversation, took some pics and had some laughs. Jaylyn was thrilled and our little wrestler was Maddie's new #1 fan! Our time together came to close, but soon a lesson would unfold.

This morning there was much on my mind, but it seemed losing was on my heart. This past week my daughter's high school season ended with a loss and so did my son's wrestling season earlier in the month. A good friend's high school career was ended as well. And now the Cyclone loss.

Losing is part of sports and really it's part of life. It's never something we set out to do, but it's something we must handle rightly. This is never easy and it's especially been a struggle for Jaylyn, so this morning I asked her, "Are you glad Maddie met up with us?" Without hesitation she smiled and said, "Yes!" Then I questioned, "Do you think it was kind of hard after a loss like that?" The girl who tends to go into the sad and silent mode with every defeat simply shook her head.

She was so focused on seeing her friend that I don't think she'd really thought about how Maddie was feeling. I was grateful we could use her example to help my girl learn to walk thru a defeat a bit better. As I shared the lesson with my young people, God urged me to pay attention as well. So friend, you may not be an athlete and perhaps you're not even a coach, but I trust you experience losing in your life. If so, read on; if not, celebrate your success!!

When it comes to losing I've learned there are three important things we must do -

ACKNOWLEDGE IT - I will never forget my varsity coach saying these words to me, "You should feel bad when you lose." I already felt bad and in the moment his statement didn't make me feel any better. Thru the years, I've gained a better understanding and appreciation for what he was implying. As a competitor, losing is not your goal. In life, falling short is not what we set out to do, but sometimes it happens. When it does, it's OK to feel bad. We should feel bad. I tell the girls I coach I'm thankful they feel bad after a loss because then I know they care. When a loss comes, respond to it and own it.

LEARN FROM IT - This same coach offered the following insightful words, "Sometimes losing is better than winning. You can learn more from a loss." Again these words baffled me before they ever benefitted me, but now I understand there is some truth to what he was saying. Losing gets our attention and opens our eyes to weaknesses. It helps us refocus and increases our intensity. If we move past the poor me mentality that can come with a loss, we can learn from it and become better because of it.

MOVE ON FROM IT - It can be tempting to get stuck in our loss. Losing can create fear and doubt; it can mess with our heart and our mind. After we've acknowledged the loss and learned from it, we must turn the page. Our focus has to be forward. We can't change the loss, but we can control what we do because of it.

Our quick visit with Maddie gave my daughter a picture of what to do after a loss and reminded all of us to keep a loss in perspective. Like my grandma always told me, there are worse things in life than losing a game. And like my volleyball loving sister always reminded there's more to life than basketball.

Friend, both those statements are true, but sports and losing can and do impact our life. As believers they also impact our walk of faith. So the most important and powerful encouragement I can share with you comes from God's Word. In the Bible we find instruction on what to do with a loss -

"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)