Today’s Thought for the Day on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning, Scotland was given by Rev Philip Blackledge, Rector of Holy Trinity, Melrose, and he has kindly given us permission to publish it here.
For those of us who are into sport, the past wee while has been something of a treat – football, golf and cricket galore, rugby and the Olympics on our screens, it provides something of a hopeful distraction from perhaps more difficult headlines in the news.
The withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan has given me much pause for thought. Knowing many folk who served in the military, who lost friends in that conflict, as the Taliban gains ground, it makes people who served there wonder whether what they did, what they suffered, what they survived, has been of good effect.
In sports, it’s easy to know what a victory looks like. You have rules that everyone agrees, you have a criteria for success, be it the fastest time or the most goals, or the lowest score, and a time limit in which to achieve. And even if your victory is by a quarter of a second, you know the difference between winning and losing.
Real life is less easy, because the rules keep changing. In a place like Afghanistan, it’s hard to know what victory might look like, or when the work is done.
And that is true for each of our lives too. How do you “win” being a good neighbour, or having a happy life, or being a decent person?
What I say to my friends who were the veterans of those conflicts, I try to live by – and that involves a very old fashioned virtue – righteousness. Self-righteousness is certainly not a virtue, but righteousness means simply trying to do the right thing.
We can’t always know what the end game is, or what the rules are, or what victory looks like, but we can strive with the zeal of an athlete and the dedication of an Olympian, to do the right thing.
That requires not just energy and dedication, but wisdom and courage, and an ability to trust in the future, and to hope for better things. It’s not as clear as a victory or a gold medal, because life is messier than sport. I know I’ll never win a gold medal – not unless they make brewing tea a sport. But being a good parent, or spouse, or neighbour – we can all be winners when we try.