Defeat key to developing character

Jun 9, 2013 By Randy Tucker

Life isn't fair. That simple statement is one of the hardest things for young people to learn, but no matter your lot in this life, it is one of the hallmarks of the human condition.

It is possible to do everything right, follow the rules, put your heart and soul into an endeavor and still fail. When that failure is of your own volition, it is much easier to take than when the hands of fate intervene, or worse yet, when some buffoon enters the picture and in one mindless act invalidates all your careful preparation and erases your hopes and aspirations.

As I was working on some farm equipment this week it occurred to me that it has been a quarter-century since I heard one of the greatest eulogies of my life.

It wasn't delivered by a professionally prepared minister or someone with any clerical background at all but by one of the best English teachers with whom I ever had the pleasure to work.

Our fellow student, George Kenyon had drowned at Boysen Reservoir near the end of the 1988 school year.

It's always an incomprehensible tragedy when a young person dies, but in a small community like Shoshoni, the news was earth shattering. His best friend, Jarvis, called me at 1 a.m. with the horrible news.

A few days later the Wrangler gym was filled to standing room only as we all gathered for George's funeral.

Cathleen Galitz stepped to the microphone and in a quiet, steady voice delivered a perfect message for the crowd of suffering family members and young people. She related how she would remember George as a handsome young man with an infectious grin, his arms covered with the phone numbers of girls after she took him on a school trip.

I'll never forget her words, "George will always be young, always be strong and always have that smile on his face in our memory." She was right, but it still bothers me 25 years later.

Life isn't fair.

What you make of the situations you're forced into reveals your character in the harsh light of reality.

Theology is a field that often is difficult to comprehend. By its very nature, comprehension is often replaced by simple faith. In other words, you don't have to understand it, you just have to believe in it.

With that framework in place, I've never understood the medieval persecution of Jews as the killers of Christ.

It would seem to the logical mind that the Jews, along with Judas himself, were a very necessary component of the entire Christian religion. Without Judas betraying Jesus, and without the unfair persecution of Jesus at the hands of the Romans, with heavy prompting from the Jews, the entire process of crucifixion and the miracle of resurrection never would have occurred.

The villains in the Easter pageant were a necessary component, without them ...

Life isn't fair, but villainous acts sometimes morph into opportunity.

As a coach and athlete there comes that dismal moment in a contest when you realize you are not going to win. No Hollywood style miracles are going to appear and save you, you are simply going to lose.

Those final timeouts with my team in just such a gloomy setting are among my favorite memories in coaching. I always had the same message to the boys, "Well, there are two ways to go. You can roll over and show them your belly or you can play to the end and show them you have a pair." The good ones always had a little left for those final desperate minutes.

Leaving it all on the field, court or floor is another of life's defining moments. Once again your character shines through in defeat much brighter than it ever does in victory.

My minister's wife in Lusk told me a simple phrase that angered me at the time, but is now so easy to understand that I often wonder if Fran could see into the future. "When God closes a door he opens a window," she said. As an angry 26-year old who was cheated by those entrusted to control his career all I wanted to do was to physically get a piece of those in charge. Wisely, I just moved on instead.

The results were nothing short of miraculous, I couldn't have scripted a better result than leaving Lusk provided 30 years ago.

Sometimes it is the friendship of unexpected people who have faith in you that makes all the difference, someone who ignores the gossip and hype and instead offers you a chance to prove yourself. Proving yourself in a new venue is both exciting and vindicating. You may have taken a shot, but you're back on your feet and they didn't hurt you.

Life isn't fair. It never will be, but how you handle the punches thrown at you makes you that much stronger if you don't fall to the easy temptation of vengeance and anger.

As my late friend Chuck Wells often said, "What goes around, comes around, it's all on the wheel."

As usual, Chuck was right. Life isn't fair, but retaining your honor and dignity in the face of cruelty allows you to transcend the idiocy.

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