Winners and Losers

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.


Confession. This was supposed to be part one of a two part series. Laziness would call for me to do this in two parts so I wouldn’t have to think of the subject matter for my next blog. I’ve decided to risk losing you for lack of brevity than risk you losing what would have been shared in part two.

My daughter just graduated from High School. I’m proud of her. But this blog is not about a father bragging on his daughter, so stay with me.

I attended Shelby’s graduation ceremony with high hopes. She attended the Developmental Research School of Florida State University. She completed the Certified Nursing Assistant program there. The school is visited by leaders from schools across the nation. There is a waiting list to get in that school. Believe me when I say it’s a good school – among the best in the nation.

And that’s what troubles me.

There was no Valedictorian – or Salutatorian. Instead, there was the “summas” – a group of about 12 summa cum laude students. Each gave a short 3 minute speech – none of which I found particularly inspiring. Many  a “thank you”, but no mention of God. Many graduates had their gowns adorned with distinctive regalia – you know, those colorful ropes with tassels you wear with your gown signifying special achievement. My daughter had one for her CNA certification. No mention was made of any student’s distinguished achievement as they walked across the stage to receive their diploma. I guess the diploma was their “participation trophy”.

I suppose the theory goes that if there would have been special recognition for the Valedictorian and Salutatorian, the remainder of the class would have had their feelings hurt or treated like second class students in some way.


In competition, there are winners and there are losers. If you lose, you are NOT being discriminated against. There is a scoreboard for a reason. In high school, it’s your GPA. In football it’s the final score. In your career, it’s your earnings. If you’re behind someone else, you don’t have to remain there. Maybe you’ll get your feelings hurt enough so that you’ll be inspired to win. You can try harder next time. No loss is final – unless you quit. I thank God that we live in a country that strives to provide equality of opportunity.

Or does it?

Not any more. Based on what I witnessed at the graduation ceremony – the Republic is lost.

I’d like to pay a visit to the person who served as the Master of Ceremonies. I’m sure she had to apply for her position as School Director. I’m pretty sure she was not the only candidate who applied. I want to ask her why she alone was hired instead of hiring all the qualified applicants. Answer – because she won! She beat the other candidates. She got the job – they didn’t. I’m sure the others had their feelings hurt.

Paul had some words on the subject in 1st Corinthians 9:24

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (NIV)

See? It’s not just the coach in me. It’s the word of God. I don’t know what could be more clear, but just in case there’s any doubt, let me offer you some more hints from the scriptures. I’ve memorized Jeremiah 29:11. It doesn’t refer to a plan to “get by” or be “competent”. It says “prosper”. I don’t think that’s limited to an abundance of finances, because money alone won’t make you happy – it makes most wealthy people miserable and brings out the worst in them. Words like excel, fulfill, and ecstatic joy come to mind. I firmly believe that God has equipped each one of us with a special gift – a talent of some sort. Mine is not singing. In my journey to discover my own gift, I tried some other things – and failed. What if I would have gotten a “participation trophy” along the way? You see, failure can mean one of two things:

  • You need to try harder
  • You need to find some other task

The bible has many champions. Time and time again, these were quite ordinary people that God used in an extraordinary way. God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips those He calls. Do you think that you could never be like the champions in the bible? Who’s whispering that in your ear? Again, I believe God gives each of us a special skill. It’s our job to find it and develop it. Finding it may involve trying things that you’re not good at (or at least think you’re not good at). Finding it may involve doing something you’re not comfortable with (yet). But just “participating” ain’t gonna cut it. In Colossians 3: 23 the scriptures call for us to work “as unto the Lord”. Does that sound like showing up for a participation award? In Matthew 5 Jesus shares a parable that shatters any notion of “participation trophies”. Not every man was given “equal opportunity” with the same amount of seed capital – give that some thought. The “loser” was given less to start with. When the “loser” did not use what he was given, he was not given a participation trophy – he was not pitied because of his “special needs”. Instead, he was rebuked and his talents were given to the winner. Then the “winner” was told

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

This notion of compromising achievement to avoid the harsh realities of competition so that nobody’s feelings will get hurt isn’t helping them. It stands in direct opposition to numerous biblical principles. It’s child abuse. It’s crippling them – crippling them for life.

That’s what I think. I’m interested in your thoughts. There’s lots of ways to hit me up so let me hear from you.

You can leave your comments below.

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Author: Mark Prasek

Christian Technologist. Find me on Twitter @DataGenesis

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