Recently, Rory McIlroy won the British Open to capture the third major championship of his young career. McIlroy became the third youngest player to win three major championships behind only Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Now that is some pretty good company! At the British Open, McIlroy looked completely in control as he entered the final round with a six stroke lead over the rest of the field. He birdied the first hole and never really looked back as he eventually won the championship by two strokes over Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia. One of the amazing things about McIlroy’s accomplishment was how his career did not get off to the best start in major championships. Heading into the final round of the 2011 Masters, McIlroy held a four-stroke lead but ended up shooting a final round of 80 to finish in 15th place overall. He had a triple bogey on hole 10 and also a four-putt double bogey on hole 12. However, the thing that impresses me about McIlroy is how he has bounced back from that dreadful experience in 2011 to become one of the most consistent golfers in the world. In the three major championships he has won since the 2011 Masters, he had the 54-hole lead in each tournament and shot final round scores of 69, 66, and 71. He seems to have put the final round of the 2011 Masters completely in the rear-view mirror as he is now arguably the greatest golfer in the world. Somehow he was able to utilize his experience at the 2011 Masters to make him an even better golfer. He took a bad situation, learned from it and got better. Sounds earth shattering doesn’t it! Sometimes in the world of sports we have a hard time learning from our failures. Our losses hurt and we often have a hard time putting them behind us. Legendary coach Knute Rockne said, “One loss is good for the soul, too many losses is not good for the coach.” So how do we learn from our losses and turn them into stepping stones for future success? Here are a couple suggestions:
1. Recognize that we are all going to experience losses – In John 16:33, Jesus says, “In this world you will find trouble, but take comfort. I have overcome the world!” We are all going to experience losses and failures but often how we respond to those losses can make all the difference in the world.
There was a funny Peanuts comic strip in which Charlie Brown gets disheartened after losing a baseball game.
“Another ball game lost! Good grief!” Charlie moans. “I get tired of losing. Everything I do, I lose!”
“Look at it this way, Charlie Brown,” Lucy replies. “We learn more from losing than we do from winning.”
“That makes me the smartest person in the world!” replies Charlie.
Many of us are like Charlie Brown. We get tired of losing but we never seize the opportunity to learn from our losses.
2. You are not defined by your losses – Your losses only define you if you let them. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.” Don’t ever forget that you once you place faith and trust in Jesus, you are a new creation. Your identity has nothing to with your losses but it has everything to do with who God is and how much He loves you!
3. Don’t be afraid to fail – One of the things that losing often does to us is make us feel defeated. As a result, we are afraid to step out of our comfort zone because we regret the losses of yesterday and we fear the losses of tomorrow. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” Remembering the truth of this verse can help us accept our losses and learn from them.
4. Always have an attitude of teachability – Some of the greatest lessons we learn often come from our failures. For many of us, the difference between success and failure is how we respond to our losses. Proverbs 13:18 says, “Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored.” Sometimes it can be hard to heed correction and admit we are wrong. Our pride often gets in the way because we don’t like to admit our failures. However, accepting correction and maintaining a teachable spirit is the first step towards learning from our losses.
5. Give grace to yourself – As a coach or athlete, your value has nothing to do with your performance. However, your value has everything to do with who God is and His love for you. Even as a Christian, it took many years for me to understand that my value was secure in Christ. When I finally realized this truth, it freed me up to accept my failures and use them to grow and tell others about the incredible news of God’s grace! When you experience failure, remember that you have a God who reaches out to you in your time of greatest need. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”