I’d Rather Have a Bronze Medal than a Silver

I read a fascinating story in the Washington Post as the Olympics were ending.  It seems, and my details are sketchy here, that those who win bronze medals report themselves happier, more excited than those who win silver.

Apparently if someone gets a silver they are prone to spending their lives beating themselves up over the .05 seconds that would have gotten them gold. Whereas a bronze medalist is thrilled to be on the medal stand, having beaten all the other people who didn’t get medals at all.

So it seems that our happiness is linked, to a degree, to how much we compare and contrast ourselves to others and how well our objects of contrast are doing.

The Utne Reader had an article by Michael Neill, from Catalyst, entitled “Have an Average Day.” I found this quote in it helpful… “When everyone is trying to be exceptional, nearly everyone fails because the exceptional becomes commonplace, and those few who do succeed feel isolated and estranged from their peers.  We’re left with a world in which a few people feel envied, misunderstood, and alone, while thousands of others feel like failures for not being good, special, rich or happy enough.”

One of my crusades in life (during which the Caped Crusader might shout out “Holy Vernacular!”) is to say to people “Oh you too?  I feel that way!  You’re not alone!”  We can all start believing the lie that we’re the only one who didn’t win a gold medal in whatever matters to us.  Or that we are the only one paddling like hell under the water while everyone else looks like calm ducks, sitting pretty.  Or the only one who feels awkward when something does go well and others envy us for it.  It’s hard to win in the comparison game.

I’m not a big fan of the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality of today’s parenting culture though I believe in rewarding excellence — and effort.  Yet I’m a big fan of the “everyone has enormous and equal value” concept.

And I love looking at people long and hard, especially when I am having trouble liking or understanding or tolerating them, and thinking “This person is a particular, specific manifestation of God’s image, and I am seeing an aspect of God that I can’t see elsewhere.”  In that regard, we’re all a bunch of gold medal winners whether we trained or just showed up.

Grace.  Cool.


~ by Cary on September 3, 2008.

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