Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you aren’t a winner simply because you’ve never stood on a podium.
You’re a winner and so much more.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been watching the show “Master Chef Junior,” not because I have any interest in cooking–we all know how horrible I am in that department–but because my friend’s precious daughter (whom I used to babysit years ago) was one of the contestants. It was so exciting to see her on there not only because it’s always neat to see someone you know on television but also because she is so extremely knowledgeable and talented. Seriously, some of the things she talked about when describing the dishes she made blew my mind, and I didn’t understand most of it.
Last week, however, sweet Ryan Kate was sent home from the show when the judges announced the two contestants who were not advancing to the next round. It was so heartbreaking. As I sat there watching, I was getting rather upset with the judges–how could they be sending her home?? Do they not recognize true genius when they see it? I was thinking about a few of the other kids on the show who probably should have gone home, instead, but the call wasn’t up to me.
What was most surprising and impressive to me was the way Ryan Kate handled it. She’s a sixth grader but honestly acted more maturely in that situation than many adults would have. She had this admirable look of bravery on her face as she listened to the judges reasoning, and then, rather than getting emotional herself, she turned to the little boy next to her who was also going home and obviously upset about it, and she hugged and comforted him.
Ryan Kate may not have won the title of Master Chef Junior, but she’s already a winner in so many more important ways.
I think a lot of times in life we focus so much on prizes and titles and accolades that we forget that none of that even matters in the end. We can’t take any of that stuff with us. Do I love competing? Yes. Do I want to win when I step onto a starting line or field or court? Absolutely. But is there lasting value in those victories? No.
It makes me think of 1 Corinthians 9:24-25, which says, “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.” While there is nothing wrong with training hard for a sport you love and dedicating time and energy to it, the real importance is the training for the way you live your life and the way you love others, because that’s what has eternal value. It’s OK not to win everything, because there are often sweet lessons in those losses.
Pete Sampras didn’t win every tennis title he contended for, but I don’t think anyone can question how great of a player he was; the Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls didn’t win a championship every year he was on the team (though they sure did win a lot), but we can probably all agree that they were winners; Russell Wilson just lost the Super Bowl on his interception, but if you see the way he conducts himself after either a win or a loss, you know he’s a true winner; my friend Dawn wins most of the races she runs, but when she doesn’t the class and attitude she has afterward show what a winner she is–especially now that she is setting an example for so many young girls she leads in her youth running program; my sister still plays on a couple of recreational soccer teams, and she doesn’t win every game or championship, but she knows that it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things–she’s there to build relationships with others and enjoy doing what she loves.
It’s refreshing to see strong character and people doing things they love–and how they handle adversity thrown their way. Life is full of so many lessons and experiences to help us grow, but we have to be willing to let those moments develop us into the individuals we are meant to be.
Your accomplishments don’t define you. You could never win a single medal or award in your entire life and still be a winner.
As long as you let love win.