England vs Croatia: Chalking it up as a win

And so, just like that, it's all over. But what a journey! It's easy to see last night as a loss. Technically it is.

The score was 2-1- against: loss.

The chance to win the World Cup: loss.

Hope that this might be the year: loss.

ReutersEngland were knocked out of the World Cup by Croatia yesterday.

I hate losing. I always have done. As a child I played to win. Board games. Computer games. Getting the part. Being the principal. Being seen or thought of as 'the best' Public speaking. Debating competitions. Whatever it was, I had to win.*

As an adult nothing changed. Getting the job. Being asked to do the thing. Getting invited. Being seen or thought of as 'the best'. I'd willingly enter into and engage in conflict, confident that my ability to articulate myself, to use words as weapons would usually lead me to victory.

Along the way I was undoubtedly doing the 'right thing' from time to time. There have been occasions when people wanted to behave unkindly, to act unjustly towards me or my family that needed to be stood up to. One of the curses of being able to articulate oneself is that it's an easy weapon to have turned on you. If people don't like what you're saying, you're aggressive. If people don't understand what you're saying, you're oppressive.

I've used my words for many good things over the years and I'm grateful for parents who always invited us to the 'grown-ups' table and always made sure we knew we had a right to be heard and gave us the tools to be heard.

But undoubtedly there were times when I didn't care who stood in the way. I'd make them look small or feel stupid by tying them in knots with their own words or using words I was confident they wouldn't understand so that they'd know who they were up against. At the time feeling immense pride in who I was and what I could do.

These days I find myself not feeling so proud of those interactions. Maybe this is why I'm writing this. In the hope that those of you whom I haven't had the chance to apologise to in person yet might read this and know that if I did this to you, I'm incredibly sorry. All that mattered was winning.

Over the past few years I've realised that winning doesn't always look like winning. Or, at least, what winning used to look like. That rather than needing to win the debate, sometimes winning looks like saying, in the words of Brian McLaren, 'Wow! I see that differently' and moving on. That rather than needing to make someone small to know how big I am, sometimes winning looks like choosing to cheer others on and make them feel bigger. To build platforms for others to stand on rather than inviting them to stand at the base of mine. That rather than pushing to make sure the other person is the loser, sometimes winnings looks like losing.

England had the youngest team at the World Cup, the youngest ever England team to compete at a World Cup, led by a manager who many questioned when appointed. And yet, somehow, they've made England fans proud and made fans out of people far from England.

Last night, England might not have won. But, like them, I'm learning that sometimes winning, really winning, looks surprisingly like a loss.

*I avoided taking part in sport, citing a higher calling or not feeling the need to take part. In fact I knew I couldn't win, so this was the best way to avoid that reality.

Matt White is a Northern Irish TV producer living in Essex and working in London. Follow him on Twitter @mattgwhite

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