Winning, for What?

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I have issues with winning.

As a student, I wasn’t one who participated in a lot of contests. I remember playing in an inter-school Scrabble competition in freshman year and joining the speech choir and sabayang pagbigkas in grade school and high school.

I wasn’t very competitive then, though. I never wished that I’d score higher than my best friends. I never thought of being top of the class. I just wanted to be appreciated, to be recognized — but winning doesn’t always promise appreciation and recognition.

Over the years, as I learned more about myself, I found out that I was actually competitive, that I liked beating others, if not being the best. However, in Filipino culture, competitiveness is almost synonymous to pride and boastfulness. With this mindset arose my love-hate relationship with winning.

A lot of times I feel guilty for wanting to win in competitions, especially the ones I’ve put so much effort into.

Just recently, I coached a group of kids in journalism, and I wanted them to enter the regionals badly. I didn’t actually know where that desire came from — if it was pure selfish ambition, I wasn’t sure. Some friends challenged me with this question: “Why did you join the contest? Is it for them to win, or for them to learn?”

I pondered on the question for quite a while. True, it must have been selfish — I did consider the possibility. But what if winning wasn’t actually bad? What if victory was actually ingrained in my and my students’ DNAs? What a lovely thought!

I was about to give up on my desire for victory when I remembered the verse God impressed on me the first time I accepted the task of handling the students:

“Do not be afraid, Abram.
    I am your shield,
    your very great reward.” — Genesis 15:1

Right then I knew, and God assured me. I wasn’t being selfish — I wanted my students to experience Him as their shield, their very great reward. I earnestly desired for them to win because that would mean their victory was first and foremost a product of God’s unconditional grace and promise.

Hoping to win takes a lot of trust, but expecting to win? That requires a great deal of faith.

That night, during the awarding ceremony, I’m just so glad I’ve got too much faith when my student was losing hope. I waited for the result no matter how late the announcement was, and God didn’t fail me.

We may not have bagged awards for all 15 of them, but we sure experienced how winning is not only about how we perform, but much more about how much faith we have on the one who holds the victory.

I think my issues with winning will appear from time to time, especially since I’ve got 2 competitions waiting for me this school year, but hey, I’ve got someone to remind me and keep me company every time. 🙂


This post was supposed to be a response to The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge, Victory, but my writing just went awry and didn’t fit the photo I was about to post.

Meanwhile, since we’re on the topic, I’d like to look back on this victory with my grade school kids two years ago.

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