After the competition

A Christian Science perspective.

After the competition is over, whether it be the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, or a spelling bee in the elementary school down the street, there is an opportunity for constructive evaluation.

This opportunity is lost if cries of unfairness or self-condemnation fill one’s thought. While there may have been some actual mistakes made by those controlling and judging the contests, these mistakes should not be allowed to detract from the lessons any competition offers. It’s a well-known axiom that we learn from our mistakes. What’s important for anyone to look at after a defeat is how he or she could have done better.

Many years ago when participating in a speech contest, I did poorly. I didn’t win the scholarship awarded to first-place winners that would enable me to attend college. I spent several days lamenting my loss and suffering from the disappointment this caused my family. This was during a time of a worldwide depression, and there was no extra money for college tuition. I was sure that my defeat was final and that college was out of the question.

To my amazement, a few days later an official of the college that I wished to attend came to our door. This in itself was unusual because we lived in the country, far removed from neighbors. People didn’t just drop in. This man knew of the contest I’d lost, but apparently he didn’t consider me the miserable failure that I did. He offered me a scholarship for the first semester and a promise that if I maintained a B average or above, the scholarship would be renewed each semester. This scholarship offered the opportunity to major in a field of my choosing while the “lost” one was good only in a field in which I was not particularly interested or suited for.

From this experience I learned that losing a competition doesn’t necessarily cut off all reward from having participated. It’s obvious that in any competition the majority of participants will not be the winners. Are those who do not win really losers? The answer is up to the individual. By adhering to the truth that he or she is spiritual and the complete reflection of God, and by claiming all God’s attributes as their own, individuals can bring victory to every contest.

It’s not harmful to learn of our own shortcomings. Actually, it’s beneficial to see where we fall short. It’s how we use this information that makes all the difference. If we sink into an attitude of disappointment, or worse, self-condemnation, we head downhill into failure and defeat. Learning from our mistakes, however, turns us around the other way. We may find the learning difficult, but it will achieve victories. We may not win actual competitions, but we will gain the victory over weaknesses and inferior performances.

The worst thing we can do is to let a competitive experience keep us from trying again. What we learn from defeats, as well as our victories, determines our actual progress in many areas of our lives.

On a larger scale, competition in business is to be desired. The founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, once wrote that “insufficient freedom of honest competition” was a danger (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 266).

While it’s important to admit the good in competition, it’s also important to recognize that merely entertaining a competitive spirit may not be advantageous. It’s good to see others win, to rejoice in their victories, and to learn from them. Almost every competitive experience offers more than a victory to a person or persons. All who are involved can take away lessons that turn defeats into victories of learning. After the competition is over, whether competitor or onlooker, one can always consider himself or herself a victor because of the helpful lessons learned. This makes victory everlasting and defeat but of the moment.

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