In January, the Hockey World Juniors made big headlines in Canada. Not because we took home gold (I mean, that's exciting but we've done it a few times before). Instead, it made headlines because of who took home silver: Sweden.
The Swedish team was so crushed by their loss to Canada in the championship game (and their subsequent win of a silver medal instead of a gold), some players lost it. They cried, they took off their medals during the ceremony, and to cap it all off, one player threw his silver medal into the stands.
"The guy in the stand wanted it more than me," said the player.
I Am Those Silver Medalists
The worst part about that story is, I get it. I honestly understand the crippling frustration and anger and disappointment those silver medalists felt. I get it, because I get selfishness. These players' response to their loss reflected a blistering self-focus, and as a result, they mistreated their competitors and sapped the joy from their own accomplishment.
And that's what self-focus does. It makes us meaner and sadder. It makes us the perpetual victim, always in need of ego-stroking, always demanding of others, always envious, always self-pitying.
But what if there was a different way? A way where you could win silver... and still be happy? A way where you could win silver... and still be kind?
Tim Keller imagines this way:
"Wouldn’t you like to be the skater who wins the silver, and yet is thrilled about those three triple jumps that the gold medal winner did? To love it the way you love a sunrise? Just to love the fact that it was done? For it not to matter whether it was their success or your success? Not to care if they did it or you did it. You are as happy that they did it as if you had done it yourself—because you are just so happy to see it."
Yes, I would love to be that person. But too often I'm not, because, in the face of others' success, I'm too preoccupied with my own loss, inadequacy, and shame to celebrate them. I'm envious. I'm frustrated. I'm disappointed.
I'm certainly not happy.
How To Be Nicer And Happier
So what's the solution?
It's both childishly simple and supremely difficult: Stop thinking so much about myself! Stop focusing on myself period, and start making the focus of my life others. Rejoice with others. Rejoice for others. Realize that I am not the center of the universe.
Because then I will be nicer. But I'll also be happier. Self-focus eats up your joy. The ego leaves no room for satisfaction because it is always hungry. The only way to stop the hunger is to stop feeding it. And when you do you'll find the fantastic freedom of an others-focus. It's the freedom of humility.
Tim Keller again:
"Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself. It is an end to thoughts such as, ‘I’m in this room with these people, does that make me look good? Do I want to be here?’ True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.”
Do you want rest and joy? Do you want to be kinder to others? Do you want to work towards being the silver medalist who celebrates the gold? Then join me in taking your eyes off yourself and turning them on the people God has given you to love and serve.
What can you do for them today?
"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).