Originally published in The Fulcrum.
Winning feels good. REAL GOOD. It feels so good that when we don’t win some of us look for a way to win in another way. We might pick a fight (verbal or physical) with someone we can “take.” Or we might numb ourselves with substances to feel “less bad.” We have made winning so important in our culture that a “winner” can be president and call everyone else a “loser.”
I’m tired of all the winning at the expense of our integrity. To me, having integrity, dignity and honor is how I define winning. In each interaction I have, am I satisfied with myself? Did I add to the dignity of others? Did I avoid adding to the toxic polarization? Are my actions that no one sees still showing my personal integrity with who I want to be or become?
As I watched the Super Bowl this past weekend, I realized that we’ve normalized lying for the glory of winning something. Yeah, I know this is obvious to many of you. This conundrum between our desire to win and our personal integrity. Is our personal integrity worth so little? And what might this mean for our national integrity?
For our nation to have integrity, we need elected leaders to commit to the process of democracy as more important than “winning.” Democracy is the process of self-rule; it is not the domination of our beliefs over others, infringing on their freedoms. Like anything else in life, if positive traits are carried to the extreme they can be harmful. The pursuit of pleasure and sensual self-indulgence becomes hedonistic and that is dangerous to the self and to society. If admiration for an individual becomes blind hero worship or if rugged individualism ignores the plight of those in need, the potential for those on the left and the right to accept autocracy is increased.
We need more imagination in our world to expand our definition of “winning.” What is the point of winning, beyond a dopamine rush? Similarly, how does winning help you, those near you and our community? What is the cost-benefit analysis of winning? One wins an argument, did it cost a relationship? One wins a game, did it cost camaraderie? One wins a campaign, did it cost societal trust?
What about this missive appeals to you, if any? Are you as angry about it as I am? Is your conscience pricked? Please dig in and don’t look away. Our comfort is not serving us or society in this time of turbulence. Transformation of society requires discomfort – and a willingness to self-examine our own roles in it.
The soul of our nation depends upon our ability to reflect and course correct. By my estimation, continuing to defend our current belief systems on the right and left will probably end with a mix of winners and losers; but also with a nation that as a whole is worse off. Our inability to imagine a new paradigm for “winning” will leave us in the frame that winning is everything.
Winning for the sake of winning means we all lose.
Perhaps refocusing on our collective, human goals and asking ourselves if winning actually brings us closer to the goals we agree upon will be more likely to diffuse tension and increase the probability of success – i.e. winning.
I love the idea of reframing winning (and the acquisition of power) to be of service to others. What does a healthy political system of self-governance look like? What does it feel like? We need to imagine this future and find others to imagine with us.
And perhaps we can develop a healthy winning attitude as a nation; the ability to focus on our long term goals even though the short-term results are not yet evident. We can foster the ability to do so with graciousness and concern for others. Yes, develop a winning attitude and success will follow. You may wonder and ask what I want to win. I want our future to win – a future where we live into the ideals upon which the United States was founded; equal opportunity with liberty and justice for all. I want us to respect each other, to offer generous listening to those different from ourselves. Lastly, I want a dignified life for every person. For you. For our children.
Will you join us to make it so?