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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Victory Is Really About Loss: The BIRGing of America

No victories occur without losses. That is the nature of the game, whether it be athletics or life. Someone wins something, yet in the victory, that person must sacrifice some very dear things. And, of course, the loser simply fails in whatever is at stake in the contest. Both contestants lose something.

After a victory, vain people gloat about their accomplishments while forgetting the costs. They elevate themselves and bask in the personal achievement of their triumph. Drunk in the euphoria of supremacy, they fail to acknowledge that their win would be impossible without the sacrifices of others who are friend and foe. No victory should be that glorious; if it is, it becomes too prideful as egos overly inflate.

Pride is often cast as the most selfish of the deadly sins. For psychologists, there are two kinds of pride. Simon Laham, author of The Science of Sin, explains...

"On the one hand we have that kind of pride that is arrogant, conceited and narcissistic; on the other hand, we have a more humble pride, one that follows proportionately upon success. The first kind psychologists call hubristic pride; the second, authentic pride.  And the status of this emotion as deadly sin or virtue hangs on the very kind of pride – hubristic or authentic – that one is talking about."

 (Simon M. Laham, Ph.D. "Pride and Prejudice: What Jane Austen Didn't Tell You." 
Psychology Today. June 25, 2012)

Hubristic pride comes with a desire get ahead at the expense of others, which puts a damper on empathic concern. Authentic pride, however, while being concerned with doing well, is somewhat less self—centred, still leaving some scope for the consideration of others. The relative decrease in concern about others opens the door to prejudice in the hubristically proud.

To live for personal glory is simply immoral, and it is extremely contagious. The term BIRGing means "basking in reflected glory." It is a self-serving cognition whereby an individual associates himself with successful others such that another’s success becomes his own. The person engaging in BIRGing does not need to have been personally involved in the successful action with which he affiliates himself. This behavior or cognition can even be unintentional and somewhat subtle.

When BIRGing, the person so attempts to enhance their self esteem or image by aligning themselves with a success or “glory” for which they had little to no role.  Examples of BIRGing include anything from sharing a home state with a past or present famous person, to religious affiliations, to sports teams to "My kid gets straight A's" bumper stickers.

While BIRGing, individuals believe they are enhancing self-esteem, yet they, themselves, did not suffer to earn the victory. The perception of having these attributes makes BIRGers feel as if they are more attractive to the outside social world and thus more desirable to others to be accepted in a social relationship. When a person’s public image is threatened, the tendency to BIRG is even stronger, and BIRGing becomes an important impression management technique to counter any threats to self esteem.

Again, I believe all wins must occur with self sacrifice and the acknowledgment of "what is lost in the win." Humility in victory is essential to honoring the contest, the assistance of others, and the sacrifice of the vanquished. These are real costs, costs that can enhance character. President Harry Truman once said, "In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves... self-discipline with all of them came first."

Unless humans display appreciation and respect for all, any victory is simply a means to egotistical visions of grandeur. I even question the relatively new custom of giving thanks to the Almighty for a sports victory. Is He a committed fan of all sports programs with a hand in every triumph? I, personally, believe God has too many important considerations to be rooting for sports competitors. I see many professional athletes praise God for personal victory, but they most often forget to ask for prayers of healing the real "costs" of winning. 

As you can see, I have some questions about the glut of people focused on victory at any cost and the fanaticism of those who "buy into" power and domination being foremost. These pretentious attitudes about winning become part of the persona of the egotistical. Taken in the arena of life, the egotistical
people can and do become tyrannical, uncaring administrators, bosses, politicians, and despots who live to crush innocents just to gain another perceived personal victory.

I notice the staunchest patriots even sign correspondence with the phrase "For God and country." I question their beliefs. First of all, notice the association of the two. The phrase and connection is certainly man made, not ordained by God. Many who use this phrase profess they are God-fearing individuals when, in fact, they are liars who hold no spiritual beliefs and who manipulator this language to their personal advantage.

Then, I ask you, why are we so proud that we believe our single country, America, has been ordained by God to lead the world out of a patriotic vision of darkness. "For God and the love of all others" might be more meaningful in the eyes of the Almighty. In fact, I believe God does not always agree with the policies and practices of our often greedy, highly political government.

In my view, any Higher Power understands even the greatest victory has substantial losses that should be addressed. It is also my belief that the defeated often gain more than the victors in terms of life lessons. The human spirit defies crushing losses. Given a chance, it gains knowledge in defeat and rebounds with a greater understanding of persecution and maltreatment.

So, to twist the phrase, I think no loss is without victory. It is just so tough for losers to thrive because ruthless winners prefer to annihilate competition and to dominate life. Don't misread me here. There is nothing wrong with winning. Yet, the gain of any win depends upon the ability of the winner to realize he is little more than a human being blessed to succeed and gather the fruit of his labor. In addition, his or her continued success depends upon the cooperation of teammates and supporters, but, in a larger and more worldly sense, the acceptance of losers and non-contestants.


by John Davidson

The war of words is done;
The red-lipped cannon speak;
The battle has begun.

The web your speeches spun
Tears and blood shall streak;
The war of words is done.

Smoke enshrouds the sun;
Earth staggers at the shriek
Of battle new begun.

Poltroons and braggarts run:
Woe to the poor, the meek!
The war of words is done.

"And hope not now to shun
The doom that dogs the weak,"
Thunders every gun;

"Victory must be won."
When the red-lipped cannon speak,
The war of words is done,
The slaughter has begun.

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