My daughter Kristin’s voice was thick and full of tears and snot. She called me all the way from Sweden where she is playing a week-long soccer tournament with teams from all over Scandinavia.
“We lost,” was all she could say before the tears took over again, and she was not able to control her voice. They lost 2-1, so it was not terribly humiliating. It was a respectable loss. But for Kristin it was a catastrophe. Because this is the first loss this season. Her team has been unbeatable this year, and when they win, they do not win with just a couple of points. They win with such a huge margin that the opposing team leave the field wondering if they ever again should play a soccer game.
But today it was Kristin’s team’s turn to lose. “They were good,” Kristin said about the team. “But the hard thing was that we lost because the referee seemed to favor the other team.” The coach later told me that the referee did in fact take sides during the game, which made the loss even harder to deal with.
I wasn’t there for the game, so I cannot say if the referee was fair or not. All I could tell Kristin was that she must use the loss today for all it is worth and come back stronger for the game tomorrow. She sighed deeply and said she was going to try. Tomorrow Steve and I will be there watching as well, and you can bet that we won’t put up with any nonsense from any referee.
Losing is so hard. It’s hard to lose a soccer game. But it is also hard to lose an argument. Who of us want to lose? Not me.
And just as losing is so difficult, winning is so nice. It feels so good to be a winner! To be right, to be the fastest, to be the smartest, to be the prettiest.
But it is during losses we learn. It is during those times we grow, get stronger and smarter. It is in losing we can take a look at ourselves and understand how we can do better.
My little niece said something that sounded so childish at the time. We were watching my oldest daughter run a race, and she was not having one of her best days. As I sighed anxiously, my niece who is almost seven, said: “But who wants to win all the time? That is boring. One has to try to lose to, and one has to try to be in the middle. Then you can understand how all that feels too. And then you can decide to win after that.” I thought that was wise. Unless we sometimes lose, we will never know what it feels like.
Or like the proverb from Iceland says: It is only by losing one understand the value of winning.