In Others’ Words: When Winning isn’t Everything

 

old boxing gloves hang on nail on texture wall with copy space for text. Retirement concept

 

Patton’s statement is such a fundamental truth, there’s almost nothing to add to it: Don’t fight a battle if you gain nothing by winning.

Another way to say that: Winning isn’t everything … and sometimes winning is nothing, except the ability to boast that you won. 

A hollow victory that echoes back at you with no lasting effect whatsoever.

I won, I won, I won … 

But it doesn’t make any difference because nothing changed in your life. You didn’t change. You didn’t gain experience.You didn’t gain an ally because an enemy became a friend. You didn’t gain wisdom because you realized you were wrong and asked for forgiveness.

You just … won.

 

In Your Words: When have you fought a battle, only to realize it was a waste of time? Or walked away from the fight because it wasn’t going to gain you anything worthwhile? When is a fight worth fighting?

 

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2 Comments

  1. June 5, 2015, 2:23 am   /  Reply

    Interesting question for a sleepless night.

    Winning isn’t everything, but losing generally isn’t anything. There are exceptions; Japan gained far more, in terms of quality of life for its citizens, by losing the pacific War than they might have by winning it. One might say the same about Nazi Germany…only by losing the war could the yoke of tyranny be thrown off.

    But those are singular cases involving extreme evil, and using them as part of a statistical or moral norm introduces cultural relativism of a particularly onerous sort.

    And sometimes winning is merely the preservation of a status quo, or the limitation of loss. Coming from a ‘good’ moral baseline, both of these would seem to make the fight worthwhile.

    But this presupposes a good v. evil paradigm; my side is good, I am opposed by something antithetical to that good. What if it’s good v. good, and the fight is about a matter of degree? Say, in a marriage, over how much to tithe?

    In this case, I think that perhaps we have to look at the value of fighting by balancing what we might gain, or preserve, as opposed to what will surely be lost.

    In the example of a couple’s tithing, victory might come at the cost of a loss of goodwill, at least for awhile. And the loser might step back from their engagement in the relationship, if the conflict was bitter.

    Just to enliven things, though, here’s another aspect…sometimes we need to fight to stay in practice, and to avoid becoming timid. (Did you know that according to a recent biographer, Carlos d’Este, Patton was physically timid? This isn’t revisionism; d’Este’s overall view is both nuanced and generally positive.)

    A long peace can make one believe that concessions are far better than any conflict; that going along really does work. The failure of this approach was shown by Chamberlain’s “Peace in our time” proclamation in 1937, which delivered part of Czechoslovakia into the Nazi hell and did nothing to avert war (except to buy time for Britain’s rearmament, the architects of which put no stock in the promises of peace whatever…thank God).

    During the 90s the US enjoyed peace and prosperity, with little loss (save in Mogandishu). But our choice, largely of non-involvement and “UN cooperation” allowed the killers free rein in Rwanda, the balkans, and the Horn of Africa. Asking a Bosnian Muslim about the Peace Divided might not be a good idea.

    It doesn’t work in marriage, either, because constant concessions tend to turn one partner into something called a doormat, and inculcate in the other a sense of entitlement. When the inevitable fight does come, it will be huge, and far more damaging.

    Personally, I think the criterion for fighting should be…would I fight this battle for a stranger, on principle? Would I tilt at windmills for another, or would I walk away?

  2. June 5, 2015, 8:12 am   /  Reply

    This the theme to the book I’m working on for Heartwarming, and in it, my hero, who believes in winning at any cost, comes to realize that sometimes it’s more rewarding to lose. Good post and great comment by Andrew.

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