How to Lose
Do you have a favorite movie with a bad ending? I don’t mean a bad movie – we all have our guilty pleasures. I’m talking about a great movie that doesn’t have a typical happy Hollywood ending.
One of mine is Arlington Road. It’s a pretty dark movie, one about domestic terrorism. The main character is a professor whose wife died in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. He’s become sort of a conspiracy theorist, and the movie is about how he becomes convinced his neighbor is secretly a terrorist.
For a good chunk of the movie, you’re not sure if he’s crazy or if the guy really is a terrorist. But as the film moves toward its climax, of course it turns out he’s right. He’s been sneakier than his neighbor and he’s finally got the proof he needs. So he rushes to inform the FBI and save the day in the nick of time!
Only… it turns out, the whole thing was a set-up. I warned you this movie has a bad ending, right? Another terror attack happens, and the main character, our hero professor, dies in it. And worst of all, his neighbor frames him to take the fall.
The crazy conspiracy theory professor who blamed the government for the death of his wife takes the blame for the attack and his neighbor gets away scot free to plan another attack.
It is a bummer of a movie.
What makes it so awful is that the whole time you think you’re watching a story with a happy ending. The professor outsmarts the terrorists and, against all odds, foils the attack.
But it turns out, the terrorist was playing a totally different game. The professor won every battle and lost the war. He succeeded everywhere he was supposed to succeed so that he could lose where it counted.
I’ve never been a victim of nefarious terrorist plots, but I have won plenty of arguments and lost the war.
Whether that’s in my marriage or friendships or former friendships, I can’t tell you how often I’ve dug deep and really went after that argument, outsmarting or bullying my way to the other person conceding.
I win the argument.
But I damage, or even lose, the relationship.
Let’s talk about how we engage each other. How we learn to fight with each other. About how often we are focused on the wrong issue. How often we win every little battle we’re in but lose what really matters.