Does being a Christian influence your desire to win?

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Growing up as a student-athlete life was somewhat simple. Win at any cost and make sure you don’t lose. Before I became a serious Christian, I had never considered how my desire to win might spill over and mature into pride or give way to the temptation to cheat or cut corners. I just simplified life into a win-or-lose binary and this made things simple. I wish I could say this view was left in my childhood, but in many ways, it continued into my professional life. Maybe you can relate to me a little. So many of the interactions at work can be seen through this simple binary, am i winning or am I losing, is helping me or them (whoever you conceive them to be).

This is of course not healthy, but it can be difficult to work out what to do with your desire to win and advance your position after you become a Christian. We are warned about Pride in Galatians 6:4, Isaiah 2:12 and even James 4:6. A Christian would do well to run away from pride, however, how much of our fear of pride can lead us into apathy and indifference, where we don’t assert ourselves and watch life pass us by.

I sat down with Kare Adenegan, a British Paralympian who is also a devoted Christian to see how her faith influences her desire to win in the sport.

Kare started wheelchair racing at the age of eleven after watching the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Four years later, she became a Paralympic Medalist in the T34 classification (Silver 100m, Bronze 400m and 800m), representing Paralympics GB at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. She also won two silver medals (100m and 800m) at the Tokyo 2020 Games, and recently won silver in the 100m at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. 

As a Christian athlete, how has your Christian walk influenced your desire to win

Personally, I don’t think my relationship with God has made me want to win any more or less. However, because my identity is rooted in Christ, I know that winning doesn’t define me or change God’s view towards me. Being a Christian athlete is empowering because faith in Jesus provides an eternal perspective on the sport. Of course, I want to win, but it really isn’t the end of the world if I don’t win, and God’s will for my life might be contrary to my athletics ambitions and that’s okay. 

How do you check that desire to win at any cost necessary? 

The ‘win at any cost’ mindset is essentially idolatry. We have to invite God to have his way with our sports. Winning at all costs also suggests a willingness to act against your morals and values in order to win. My desire to be a successful athlete was once an idol in my life because I thought it was a firm foundation, but COVID, lockdown, and a postponement to the Paralympic Games in 2020 caused that idol to fall. 

I prevent my desire to win from becoming an idol by constantly consecrating my athletics career to God in prayer and committing each training session to him. I try to have the mindset that I’m winning for his glory instead of my own. 

Does being a Christian make you happy when other people win instead of you? 

Kind of. If someone wins instead of me, I am happy for them because I recognise that they have worked hard to win. At the end of the day, the winner is the one who has put in the most work and has reaped their rewards on the day of the competition. So I always sincerely congratulate the winner, but at the same time, being a competitive athlete means that I also have the mindset that I need to work harder. 

Being a Christian means that I am called to show love to my competitors, and I really do love them and respect their grind. 

What advice would you give to someone trying to get their mojo back after a period of apathy in their sport?

Remind yourself of your why? If you don’t know why you’re doing sport then you won’t be motivated to do your best. If you are struggling to find your ‘why’, start with this. if you are a Christian, your sport can be your place of worship. Paul writes in Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship”. 

We can use our bodies as living sacrifices as we do our sport. When you are low in motivation, reflect on the fact that God has given you a body with immense capabilities to be used for his glory. Worship him by using your body and talents. Exalt him in the successes and trust him through the challenges. If this is of interest, I explore what it means to participate in sport for God’s glory with guests on my podcast, ‘Sporting For His Glory’. Having conversations about faith and sport on the podcast has definitely boosted my own motivation to train hard and compete with purpose. 

I think also during times of apathy towards sport, it’s important to revive the enjoyment of competing and training. It’s very easy to become bogged down by internal pressures and the expectations of others, and the result is often a lack of enjoyment in what you do. Forget your goals for a moment and simply enjoy the way that exercise makes you feel. Enjoy being active. Enjoy the process of training and build from there.  

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