Loss of Awe #2: Winning at a Cost

The Loss of Awe – Part 2
by Hud McWilliams

In the first installment of this series on the significant differences between debate and dialogue, I explored how we have what appears to me to be a debate-only way to relate, leading to “putting an end to questioning.” Somehow the powerful need to be certain or right has submerged Creation’s central human need to wonder, to inquire, to muse, and to wait.

Let’s look at a critical distinction between debate and dialogue. There are actually many facets to this commentary, however a core part for consideration here is the fierce need to “win”. Who said, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing!?” There are variations on this quote, yet the sentiment remains in our capitalistic oriented culture for this to be our desire/goal. One of the best books on male depression is titled; “I Don’t Want to Talk About It.” What is being expressed in part is the different manner in which the two genders express depression, a most painful diagnosis, yet often missed in men because of the title’s belief.

Nevertheless, not processing our lives, not talking about it, not dialoguing, removes any chance of discovery and at the same time actually promotes an adversarial stance. This sucks the life out of any possible connection. If we define dialogue as love, then debate is more like war. The actual truth is that we are in a war if you are following after Jesus the Christ. He knew it and we gain by paying attention. The manner in which this works is by actually separating us into a binary win-lose milieu and forgoes any chance for surprise and wonder. The oft used adage “When you win an argument in a relationship the relationship always loses.” What this means is that the loser begins to collect some amount of bitterness and feels less than the winner.

When you win an argument in a relationship, the relationship always loses.

Maybe a short detour here would aid us in understanding how strong this element is in human functioning. When we compare, there is always a loser. Should we never compare? Well, this is a little bit like or akin to never playing any sport or being in any competition. When I talk about this, it is from the life experience of years of competitive sports. Learning to fail and lose meant that I had to think and process what was taking place in my own soul whenever I won or lost. I now know that the actual point of these experiences is to determine how well I can perform in the arena, not the external winning or losing. It is rather the internal accurate assessment of myself often found under the rubric of “self- awareness.” So, this is not about competition which if formed as above, is a win-win situation, no matter the immediate outcome. Rather this is about how most often I am not trying to test myself, but only test myself against others. If I maintain the win-lose frame of reference, then I will stop dialogue and be in a debate mode. Actually, debate teams are supposed to be prepared to argue both sides of an issue, a binary set up, and determined to win. This is not a pursuit of truth, but rather another way to keep score. Humans love power.
In Hebrews 12:14-17 we have a complicated message which should give us pause when we think about winning as a viable strategy for living the Christian life. Esau, who gave up his birthright for immediate emotional/physical gratification, in this text seeks the blessing (which he lost!) with tears. By refusing to repent or exchange his injustice collection for grace, he wound up bitter.

For years now I have contemplated why so many people are weighed down with some form of bitter injustice collection. I have wondered why this remains so persistent and unrelenting in its effect of shriveling their souls. If the core message of scripture and following Jesus is relational, then the subject of winning and losing is also core to the full life we are promised. I believe that Esau did not want to change either the way he was thinking or really change who he had become. He merely wanted to win and in this case he had lost, so what was left was the unfair result of betrayal and hurt represented by a root of bitterness.

Bitterness is partial truth. Real, yet not the whole story of any person. It is truly a tragedy that in our day we avoid the messiness of dialogue and hide behind debate. Where the unsettling nature of inquiring questions can be avoided and growth stopped as a result.

Injustice, betrayal, hurt, losing, bitterness, revenge, and saying “It is not fair” all serve to keep us from wonder and awe mainly because we think we know what justice is, and hold onto the “cause” in order to win. This serves to separate us, however slightly, from others and the core source of awe at God’s creation in another. What we are truly offered is forgiveness, and if we accept forgiveness, we will then be able to give this away and begin to live again out of freedom.

Dialogue ensues and connection begins when we drop the need to win and replace it with the joy of authentic relationship.

By His grace until next time,