The Common Notion of “Victory”
What is a victorious life? The word “victory” itself suggests images of men and women winning a competition or an athletic game, such as soccer, basketball or a race in the Olympics. Victory also refers to winning the World Series or the Super Bowl. Of course, coming in first place is impressive, an outstanding achievement. However, I would like to discuss a different kind of notion of victory, which is living a victorious life. It is an achievement of the highest order and is equally, if nor more, impressive to the kinds of victories I have mentioned.
Endurance as a Form of Victory
If a person cannot overcome a problem by changing it, then enduring it should be seen as a victory. Enduring a chronic condition or disease, such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, is a victory. A person who has tragically lost the use of his or her arms and legs and endures such conditions, chooses to live victoriously.
Not-So-Obvious Forms of Victory
There are many other examples of victorious living, even though they may not be obvious to some people. Sometimes, just getting out of bed in the morning, especially if a person is prone to depression or hopelessness, is a victory. Completing a difficult day at work is a personal victory, because a man or woman has endured problems from the beginning to the end of the day. If someone is an alcoholic, not taking a sip of alcohol each day is a victory. If a person has social anxiety disorder, learning to be around other people is a victory. Failing a test and having the courage to take it again is a victory.
Different Staring Points for Measuring Victory
Thus, there are victorious men and women, both young and old, throughout society – indeed, throughout the world – provided that the understanding of “victorious” is inclusive, not exclusive. In life, as psychiatrist Viktor Frankl says, “[E]veryone has a different kind of start.”1 A person, then, is to be credited with a victory or, says Frankl, “an achievement,” perhaps even a greater achievement than others, because his or her “start is more difficult” or “fate” “less kind.”2
Therefore, victories belong not only to those who are radiant with health and have bodily strength but also to those who live with chronic conditions and psychological problems. For them, facing each new day is a challenge and completing it is a victory. Rather than viewing themselves as victims, they choose to be victors. They have, to borrow a phrase from Paul Tillich, “the courage to be.”
1. Viktor E. Frankl, The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy, trans. Richard and Clara Winston, 3rd ed. (New York, N.Y.: Vintage Books/ Random House, 1986), p. 153.