We sometimes hear veterans of life’s battles saying something comparable to the remark: You win some, you lose some. In a way this sounds admirable. It presents someone who has seen his or her share of life’s challenges, and has reached some kind of accommodation to the way things turn out. And apparently the formula reflects a workable arrangement for that person comparable to a dietary program striking a balance between too much and too little at the dinner table. And so it resembles a sensible, realistic balance, even if not too exciting.
Of course, for optimists among us, it strikes a sour tone. A genuine optimist doesn’t want to settle for defeats in his or her life, or even to countenance their possibility, even if they rarely occur. To settle for a life formula that stares reality in the face and is willing to compromise for some losses and defeats seems to be a de-energizing stance that almost guarantees losses. Why build the possibility of losing into the life struggle to succeed and gain one’s goals? Is it not a de-energizing and deflating attitude that guarantees that wins will be few and far between?
On the other hand, the realists among us want to dismiss the likelihood of “wins” from our repertoire of likely outcomes of our efforts. Why set oneself up for being knocked down time and time again? This can prove to be self-fulfilling, to initiate an enterprise that in all likelihood is doomed from the very beginning. It soon proves to be deflating and promises to issue in defeat from the get-go. It proves to be a waste of time and energy, which could be much better utilized by lowering our standards and goals, and thereby avoiding the calamitous disappointments of failure and defeats. To settle for what is “good enough” issues in greater peace and contentment than striving for the very best.
In the calculation process, counting wins and losses, the relative importance of the wins and losses, of course, counts for something. That is, a major win is not checked or balanced by a minor setback, just as an important failure is not compensated for by a relatively unimportant success. If American Pharaoh wins the Derby, Preakness and Belmont, that more than balances out a subsequent loss in a less prestigious race. So calculating wins and losses has to take the merits of these contests into account.
Realistically, no one can count on a streak of endless wins, though, on the other hand, one can realistically fear that a streak of endless defeats can become self-fulfilling. A mindset that has lost self-confidence puts itself in a perilous situation where defeat becomes a likelihood. So it is a bit of an art to maintain one’s balance by counting on winning some and losing some, and being willing to settle for that situation over a long period of time.
It is usually comforting to work with someone on a project, who maintains a balance of comfort with winning some and losing some. To collaborate with someone who never calculates possible defeat into his or her projects is somewhat disconcerting, while to partner with another who foresees nothing but the likelihood of failure and defeat is to become a collaborator in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
There is a Christian angle to this conundrum, thankfully. For a Christian works in the context of the long-range view of things. Unlike those who constantly transfer their investments from one enterprise to another, in usually short-term arrangements, a Christian is a long-range investor who places his/her assets in a far-reaching strategy that, while willing to settle for the “win some/lose some” formula, in what can be called a short term arrangement, actually stretches out far beyond to a guaranteed formula of ultimately winning, that is, winning the big one. It’s against this forecast that losses can be sustained in the short term, even with a certain amount of confidence and self-assurance, where one’s broker can promise that “…whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day”. (Jn. 6.54)