Tuesday, October 23, 2012

On Victory

Yesterday, I wrote about the difference between winning and victory:  Winning is statistical; victory is story.

Not to get too SAT problem on you, but let me add that winning doesn't always feel like victory, but victory always feels like winning.  Regardless of the actual numbers.

That's what's so cool about victory.  But there is a danger here, and that danger is misusing the word victory when what you actually mean is a win.  In that subtle difference is where hearts hang in the balance, and we can do great damage by confusing the two.

Victory always sounds good, but a premature celebration can leave a wounded heart and a tattered life in its wake.

An abused woman hears, "You're not the victim any more.  You're the victor." because she's done something so basic as survive.  She's alive, and on the scoresheet, that looks like a win.  Maybe it is.  But talk to her aching heart, and you know it's not a victory.  Tell her while she's still hurting that this is it, that this is victory, and you don't encourage her.  She's discouraged.  This is it?  This is victory?  Her heart is still hurting.  She's filled with unanswered questions.  She's still in flight mode, searching for a place to land.  She doesn't know whether she's strong enough.  She doesn't know if there's anything worth living for.  She doesn't know if she made the right move or the wrong move.  There's a new, hard road ahead of her...and there are many among us who have the audacity to tell her this is victory.  It doesn't feel like a win.  And if this is what winning is, then what is winning worth?

A cancer patient comes through chemo and enters remission.  Day one, we tell them this is victory.  And on the x-ray, maybe it looks like a win.  But their hair hasn't grown back.  Their body hasn't found its strength.  Their immune system is still compromised.  Their schedule hasn't filled back in.  They're still looking ahead to the next check-up, the next check-in, the next check on cancer in their lives.  They are alive, but it takes some time to resume living.  Which is the victory?  We tell them being alive is the victory, but that barely seems like a win.  Is this all there is to look forward to post-cancer?  Winning isn't worth it.

These are just two of the common scenarios in which we're too quick to declare victory when what we have is simply a win.  Victory has to encompass more than the circumstances; it has to be the story.

Victory is when the abused woman discovers what she is on her own.  Something besides broken, scared, running, and questioning.  It's when she is able to separate herself from the spreadsheet and stand on something more than a win.  It's when she finds her strength and her meaning and her source of life that is beyond counting the score.  It's when she realizes that while she's been fighting for so many years, she isn't fighting any more and doesn't have to.  It's when she figures out what this all really is - and it's not a game, and it's not a battle, and it's not a fight.  And it's not a win; it's a victory.

Victory is when the cancer patient figures out what it means to live healed.  What it means to not keep one foot in the bed for fear the side effects will come back to bite.  What it means to start circling days on their calendar again - and I'm not talking about doctor's appointments.  What it means to plan for a day beyond tomorrow, trusting that there's going to be one for them.  What it means to get up, get out, get in there, and get involved in the business of life as we know it and stop looking at the x-rays and the scales and the prognoses and start looking at the horizon and the seasons and the future.  Then we move from a simple win into a brilliant victory.

Don't get me wrong.  There's a lot to appreciate about a good win.  But there's a tremendous danger in declaring a simple win a victory.  Even in the win, we have to leave space for the aching heart, the broken heart, the wounded heart, the hurting heart to look for something greater.  Something that isn't statistical.

Something that is story.  Something...that actually feels like a win. 

A victory.

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