My good friend Chris has returned for another guest post on Off The Cuff Christian. The blog had a great response to his first post and I’m sure this one will be just as well received. I’m hoping to recruit more writers down the road that may want to contribute as well. In the meantime, enjoy what Chris has to contribute.
DO YOU LOVE IT ENOUGH TO LOSE?
I recently had the pleasure of reading a cool little editorial on Destructoid about Street Fighter II and the fighting game community. The author’s thoughts on the game and its players were nostalgic fun, but his insight into love and humility were deeply convicting.
To paraphrase his thoughts on the competitive scene…
“…a lot of people play to win. Now, this isn’t a bad thing, and I love to win as well. But when you stop playing a game because you love it, it just isn’t the same… If you don’t enjoy the game, then you’re wasting your time. I always stuck with Street Fighter II because I love the game. I love winning, I love losing, I love learning about it, I love talking about it. It’s that love for the game that keeps me motivated to play it and better myself at it. In tournaments…I can’t even begin to recall how many players I’ve seen who weren’t enjoying the game. They get angry at themselves, the game, or even their opponent.”
I think his description of what it looks like to love something is spot on. When you truly love something, you embrace it through the highs and the lows. Conversely, when you only love something for the feelings of success it can provide, when you’re playing to win, it’s a short road to getting burned out.
It’s by this rubric that I decided I might not love Street Fighter as much as I simply love being good at it. This is testified by the fact that I could play against an evenly matched opponent for hours, but will put the game down for months at a time after a series of crushing defeats.
At this point I should probably say that this idea of playing to win applies to much more than my approach to competitive video games. It applies to my attitude toward life, art, and faith as well.
If I’m honest, a lot of the things I enjoy doing can easily get overshadowed by the weight of my own expectations. For instance, I love creating music. I love writing songs, listening to songs, talking about songs, and playing songs for people. I’d love to say my love for music is purely joyful, but in all truthfulness, there are times I forget that I love music at all. When a show doesn’t go the way I’d hoped, when progress is slower than I imagined, or when jealousy creeps in, music stops being the thing I love and becomes a tormentor. Suddenly, songs I would normally love become bitter reminders of what I haven’t attained yet. Instead of rejoicing with friends in their accomplishments, I begrudge them their every success. I’ve stopped loving music and I’ve started loving success. Or to put it another way, I’ve stopped enjoying the game.
In the book of Luke, Jesus tells a story about a man with two sons. I’ll assume you’ve never heard it. To summarize, one day the man’s youngest son comes to him and asks for his inheritance. This was not a matter as simple as going down to BB&T and cashing in on some savings bonds. In order to provide this, the father most likely had to sell off a portion of the family’s land and assets. The young son takes his riches and heads off to spend it on drinks and women. When his funds run dry and he’s left starving, he decides to return to his father and beg for work as a servant so that he might have something to eat. Before he even reaches the mailbox, his father runs to him and embraces him. The father clothes the son with his best robe and puts the family ring on his finger. The father will hear none of his son’s request to work as a servant and instead orders for a banquet to be thrown in the son’s honor. Later on, word reaches the father that the eldest son has refused to come into the party. He finds him fuming around outside. His oldest son complains that he has slaved for his father for years and never received even a small lamb with which to throw a party, but when this squandering son returns home, his father kills the fattened calf and throws a party! The father tells his son that he is rejoicing on account that his son was lost and now is found.
And that’s that. We aren’t shown anything past the son standing outside angrily and the father presumably returning to the party.
Scholars have written volumes about this story, but I want to look specifically at the difference in attitude between the father and his sons. I don’t think anyone could read this story and not conclude that the father loves his sons. The funny thing is, we aren’t shown anything in this story that justifies this love. Every interaction we’re shown between the father and his sons involves the sons disrespecting their father. Still, we see the father standing by them through it all on account of his love.
On the other hand, the sons love their father for the things they might get from him. The youngest son pursues this by acting out and demanding things point-blank. The older son pursues this by being virtuous in deed to his father, all the while, hoping to be rewarded for it. I don’t get the impression that either son loves to spend time with their father, talk about their father, or learn more about their father. There is a difference between loving someone and loving what you get from them. They’re playing to win, and both get frustrated and angry because they’re not motivated by the same kind of love their father is motivated by. When this happens, they lash out at their father and their surroundings.
Think about the things you love. Are these things you are willing to stand by in both triumph and defeat? Do you love them enough to lose at them? Or do you just love the feeling of being good at them?
Like I said, I often find that my mindset needs readjusting when it comes to the things I love. What keeps me coming back to things like music, art, ministry, my marriage, my friendships, is that I love them. I love them when things go right and I love them when things go wrong. I love to grow in them and I love to see what God has in store for them, even when things are hopelessly frustrating.
Even if you have found yourself playing to win, it’s not too late to change your mindset. We don’t know what the youngest son’s true motives were for returning home. Was he just trying to scheme a way for his father to sustain him once again? Was he returning broken-hearted in true repentance? Who knows! Whichever it was, I don’t imagine the son was expecting his father’s reaction. I can’t imagine the impact that seeing the depths of his father’s love for him would have on his heart.
Love needs to be the foundation for everything we do. It’s the only thing that will keep us returning to what our hearts cry out for. Your passions, your relationships, your dreams…love them enough to keep coming back to them, even when they’re mopping the floor with you. After all, if you don’t enjoy the game, you’re wasting your time.
“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. And experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer.”
– Randy Pausch
For Chris…I love the painting by Rembrandt that you included in this post – one of my favorites. Have you read Henri Nouwen’s book, Return of the Prodigal Son? If not, I highly recommend it. It was inspired by the painting and is as captivating.