The real cost of the win-at-all-costs mentality

We like winners

TunnelIn American society, we like people and teams who win. We like those who come out on top. No-one wants to come in second. This is why we have the saying, “second place is first loser.”

In no sport is this truer than in competitive cycling. This is highlighted by the recent controversy over doping allegations against Lance Armstrong. In a recent World Magazine article entitled Lancing Blow, ESPN columnist Rick Reilly is quoted as saying that Lance “cheated in a sport where cheating is as common as eating.” The implication is that Lance had to cheat (if he did) just to keep the playing field level and that it is no big deal. Yet, as the World Magazine article shows, this mentality took its toll on Lance’s personal life, regardless of whether he doped or not.

Other sports have had their cheating controversies as well. Performance enhancing drugs, bounty programs and using electronic means of stealing the other teams signals are just a few ways that teams have tried to get an edge on their competitors. We often turn a blind eye to this behavior because we want our team to win. We like those who focus on winning.

The dark side

Yet this win-at-all-costs mentality has a dark side to it. Large corporations such as Enron were propelled to prominence through this mentality only to come crashing down when the extent of their deception became known. The result was that not only did the leaders of the company suffer, employees lost jobs and investors lost $11 Billion as Enron’s stock crashed down.

A point of reference

The win at all costs mentality is typical of a society that has lost its point of reference. Through all the prophetic books the leaders of Israel are called to account for having “false balances” (Amos 8:5 ESV) and pursuing “dishonest gain” (Ezekiel 22:27). Israel lost sight of the command to love God (Deuteronomy 6:5) and as a result, the law of God was neglected.

In America we are following the same path. We rebel against the Judeo-Christian ethic and have not replaced it with anything sufficient to deter cheating and the me-first, win-at-all-costs mentality. We send future executives to Ivy League schools where they are taught that there is no absolute moral truth and then we throw them in jail after they put this philosophy into practice in the board room.

The only hope

The only hope is that when things get so bad, when people realize that the alternatives to a Biblical ethic are morally bankrupt, then we will be ripe for revival. But in our arrogance and pride we continue to choose our own way. We continue going down the tunnel of self rule.

The problem is that even though the tunnel ends in a rock wall, we are pressing the accelerator harder.