Perspective on Winning

by Arthur W. Anderson

Playing golf the way I play it is exasperating. When Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," he didn't mean golf. On the fairway, my whole being pleads for consistency — foolish or otherwise. After having another game spoiled by figure 8s, I got so sick of being a loser, I resolved to do whatever it took to win. If I couldn't win against myself, I deserved the pits.

I openly admit I am not a good loser. So, when I smart, I take to religion. One thing that religion reminds us is that we learn more from our failures than our successes. Heaven knows I need character building and perspective on winning. But I also learn that failure reinforces itself and trips me up again and again.

The Christian faith reminds us that our Lord went the way of failure — the Via Dolorosa way. The Tempter promised him the world at his feet, but he chose another route. Arid, in doing so, he went down to his death. Even so, God "highly exalted him" and won for him the name that would cause every knee to bow and "every tongue to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." But I cannot equate the pitiful reason for my failure with such self-giving.

Nor, do I find reassurance in the idea that the person of faith follows the cooperative way rather than the competitive. Even the great unifier, the Apostle Paul, became all things to all persons that he might by all means win some, wrote, "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win." I Cor. 9:24. Religion can be an opiate, a rationalization for not accomplishing anything, or for hiding our ineffectiveness in the fog of the invisible — a luxury which the person without religion doesn't have.

So where does that leave me in my 19th hole (pit) musings? First, I realize that the stakes are higher than just winning a game, even against myself. But a game is never merely a game. The green kingdom at Yankee Run golf course is a living metaphor of the Kingdom in which "I live and move and have my being" but yet must win. Again, the athlete in my soul relishes seeing that Kingdom also as a game, becoming a student of it, taking lessons on it, preparing for and playing it with all that is in me, that I, too, may overcome. If that is "works," I am for it! Old Paul would understand that.

Yet, as Ernest Jones, "America's foremost golf teacher," said, "Good golf is easy." Developing that idea, Timothy Gallwey added, "The 'doctrine of the easy' states that acts well done are done easily and that that which seems hard is usually not being done well." I find gospel in that. Recall the words of Jesus, "Come unto me, all you who labor.. . for my yoke is easy.. . . " So, I'll take my seven iron and try once more — or, better yet, not try so hard!