Newsletter #490 – Gold-medal People Building

Most of the athletes marching into the Olympic stadium this weekend will be bringing hopes for a medal. Most have trained rigorously for years, working with coaches and body-builders, training for peak performance. According to an article in Monitor on Psychology (July-August 2012) many athletes also work with sports psychologists who help contestants relax, stay focused and keep control of their racing minds. Undoubtedly these mental coaches also bring encouragement before the events and consolation to those who lose, sometimes by only a fraction of a second.

Olympians are not the only people obsessed with winning. We all understand; at times the stakes are high. But sometimes in the pursuit of a victory, morals, laws, or standards of decency get pushed aside. We see this when football coaches overlook sexual abuse lest this interfere with the team’s winning record and tarnish the university’s reputation. We see this when professional athletes take performance enhancing drugs, politicians build campaigns around character assassination of their opponents, wealthy people try to buy elections, company CEOs break the laws to make more money for shareholders, Christians spread gossip about fellow believers, or researchers distort or hide data to make their products and research look better than they are.

Some who read these words may be people helpers, teachers building into the lives of their students, life or business coaches helping others shape their careers, relationships or companies. We don’t get medals for this, often nobody even notices. But ultimately is anything more fulfilling than building into the lives of others, bringing encouragement, hope and guidance?

I’ve spent many years building products: books, resources, academic programs, organizations, speeches, newsletter/blogs, my own career. Throughout I’ve tried to take the high road, respecting others along the way, maintaining integrity and ethical standards, not overlooking my family, determined to do what God has called me to do. Without doubt most who read these words are on similar journeys. I’m not quitting but I see myself shifting to more focus on people-building. It’s always been there but maybe more in this stage of my life.

What or who are you building? What makes this a winner for you, even if you never get a gold medal? Please comment.


  1. I’m 66 yr/ young. Because of ill health I retired 4 years ago after pastoring a church for 19 yrs. Last year I have accepted the position of honorary chaplain to my old Army unit (5 Field Ambulance Royal Australian Army Merdical Corp).
    This current ministry has put me in touch with not only the people I served with, in the early 1960s, but also a group of old men known as “The Rats of Tobruk” (WW2) and their extended families.

    Long distance telephone calls, visitation, prayer, and special unit meetings provide me with an opportunity to speak about life values and how they reflect the humanity and divinity of Jesus. If I can cause a person to reflect on their life and accept the forgiveness and correction provided in Christ, and show him/her a better way forward, then seeing that happen is worth more than any gold medal.
    Ps, I do have a crown of eternal life.


  2. Gary, you are so right! Nothing is more fulfilling than building into others hope, encouragement and guidance–my special athletes are my children and grandchildren. I have the amazing privilege to pray for them, encourage them, root for them and sometimes to even guide them as they run the race, as they seek to keep the faith–what joy for me!! Better than gold!


  3. Gary, J agree. I have been discipling college-age kids for almost 40 years. They are “my kids.” I have seen them mature, marry and then disciple their kids and other people. Several have become missionaries or pastors. 3 John 4 is so true. There is no greater joy than seeing that your children (natural or spiritual) are walking in the truth. Projects are good and necessary, but Jesus showed that personal discipleship, developing others into godly leaders who will in turn disciple others, is the best way to significantly impact the world. It is a slow process, and often not glamorous or heralded, but it works.


  4. To a large degree our culture venerates the victor, disparages the vanquished, and can’t wait for the day when the champion is overthrown by the dark horse. This vicious cycle plays itself out over and over again as the media cheers and jeers on television entertainment programs and in the sports sections of newspapers nationwide. As humans we celebrate when someone wins, but often the loudest cheer is heard when the athlete comes crashing back to Earth because of someone else’s triumph. And sadly, we’ve learned to celebrate an athlete’s achievement over his/her mere attempt at what for most of us would be impossible.

    I’m never going to win the Tour de France, but I can teach my three boys the rules of the road and how being Number 1 should never take a back seat to good sportsmanship. While consoling my seven-year-old Luke after his Little League team gives up four runs in the bottom of the last inning to lose 4-3, and after watching my five-year-old Joshua struggle to get back up after being trampled by a seven-year-old girl during his soccer team’s 6-2 loss, what I am building are future men who understand that winning isn’t everything. Modeling this isn’t something that comes naturally, and hubris has a way of rearing its ugly head in the heat of competition. But as I near age 50 and have come to the realization that I’ll probably never ride L’Alpe d’Huez, being able to walk away from defeat with a smile on my face and an inner joy for simply having had the opportunity to participate, I model for My Three Sons (Samuel is only 2!) the image of God to young minds that are still developing and have yet to internalize His goodness, character and love.

    They’ve only lost if they lose sight of the One they’re playing for.


    1. Scott, Duane, Brian, Donna – How interesting that all of you bring an older perspective, taken from your experiences with life that some who are younger do not have. I am encouraged that some among the Olympians seem to have similar attitudes along with their massive determination to do well and win their events. Next week’s newsletter/blog will take this one step further – at least that’s my plan.


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