I have never really been into sports. I’ve tried. But it’s just not my thing. That was until my middle son began his first year of wrestling. It’s an intense sport. Suddenly, I became that mom that is on my feet clapping, cheering and shouting from the bleachers. No one has to guess who’s kid is on the mat. I didn’t even know I had it in me. But there are few things as adrenaline producing as standing face to face with your adversary ready to dual in what has to be one of the most full contact sports there are. Just sit there and watch? No way. Impossible.
Winning can be addictive and it was at a recent tournament that our previous winning streak came to a screeching halt. Double ouch. The look of defeat on my son’s face was tough to absorb. Especially considering he went in so determined to win. I told him what my head knew and my heart was trying to believe, you can’t appreciate winning if you never lose.
That same night, I witnessed a perfect example of this truth. A kid from an opposing team got on the mat for one of the most lengthy and intense matches I’ve witnessed. I don’t think anyone could have predicted who the winner would be. And in a moment of seeming and sure defeat, this kid surprised everyone by stealing the victory and pinning his opponent to the mat. I wish I could play you a video of the moment the referee held this kid’s arm in the air symbolizing his win. I don’t know him and I don’t know his story. But I can tell you by the reaction of his mother in the stands that this was the first match he had won. Ever. She dropped her face in her hands and ….sobbed. Happy tears that were a celebratory response when all you’ve known in life is loss and defeat. It was one of the most emotionally charged moments I have ever witnessed. For him, winning was by far the best thing that could have happened that night.
But losing is an equally important thing. I witnessed another scenario unfold that night that caught me off guard. It involved another kid who lost his match. And he did not handle the loss well. When it came time to shake the hand of his opponent who defeated him, he not only refused, he swatted his hand away. For him, winning would have been the worst thing that could have happened that night, because a crucially important part of life is learning that sometimes you will lose.
J. K. Rowling has a quote that says, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all-in which case, you fail by default.”
Everyone experiences failure at some point. I think of my own failures in life and what they have taught me. Some small and rather insignificant and others of academy award winning size. My failures have been my greatest teachers, each one holding a valuable life lesson I needed to learn.
Aside from the obvious lessons of what not to do, failure has taught me that setbacks are only momentary. That’s if you choose to rise again and fight. And I don’t say that as some cheap motivation because let’s face it, some setbacks are hell to recover from. But it is possible.
Failure has taught me humility and most importantly, humility without feeling shame.
It taught me to celebrate others when they win, even when it’s my turn to lose.
It has taught me endurance and the ability to suffer well. It put resilient strength in my weak places.
Watching my son walk off the mat, shoulders slightly slumped, but only enough that I would notice….not easy. But deep down I knew that it was good for him. I knew it would better prepare him for life in a way that I don’t want to shield him from. Because failure is important.