“You learn how to be a gracious winner and an outstanding loser.” Joe Namath
My late mother would tell us being a gracious winner was just as important as being a gracious loser. In fact, she would scold if we were less than kind to our siblings if we won a game and were being “ugly” about it. Not being a gracious winner has ruined many professional relationships as well as friendships because of a need to “rub someone’s nose” in success. Today’s Choral Ethics Dilemma concerns just such a situation.
Loribeth* is a good person. Or, at least, she tries to be. It’s not been easy lately because her college roommate, Janet*, has been making her feel like a failure. They were always close, from the time they were nineteen and sophomores in college, but now Loribeth avoids Janet. The two used to speak regularly on the phone; then as technology advanced by email and by text, keeping up with each other both professionally and personally. What’s changed? If she is honest with herself, she thinks social media has played a big part in the change in Janet’s behavior. In the old days, she would get the yearly Bragging Christmas Letter from Janet but now, with Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, it is often daily.
Their lives are quite a bit alike. Both women graduated from the same college, with degrees in music. Both women attended similar graduate schools. Both women were in each other’s weddings and each has three children. And now both women teach at similar liberal arts colleges, as well as direct community choruses, in different states. Loribeth believes their musical talents and family lives are on par with each other but Janet now has to be the best or to at least have the last word on everything.
It’s become too much for Loribeth; everything Janet does is perfect. Her children are perfect and so is her marriage. Her college choirs are outstanding and her community chorus has the best—the most understanding and cooperative—board of directors. Everything Janet touches is “golden” and everything Loribeth touches is “ordinary.” According to Janet.
Loribeth isn’t “ordinary” by any means. She has become more active in several professional groups in the last few years and is taking leadership roles. Her youngest child just won a youth concerto competition. One of her college choirs tours every spring and her community chorus takes Europe tours every other summer. She is admired by her students and was given an award last spring for excellence in teaching. But unlike Janet, she doesn’t take to Social Media about every little thing in her life, she just does what she does, then doesn’t make a big deal out of it.
Loribeth and I have been conversing over the summer after she emailed me, wondering what she should do about being made to feel—often in public—like a loser. She was close to calling Janet out publicly, which is the LAST thing she should do. I told her to ignore her, block her and stop looking at anything to do with her. My guess is Janet is jealous of Loribeth and that’s why she is constantly bragging about everything in her life. Janet is not being gracious with her wins. If Loribeth is gracious, and ignores her supposed losses, she will win in the long run. But why does there have to be a winner or loser?
Loribeth’s and Janet’s story is not unusual. We are encouraged, as a profession, not to be “self-promoting.” Most of us, at least among our peers, try not to be obnoxious if we occasionally do some self-promotion when we need to. When others seem to be constantly self-promoting while denigrating others no matter what, it’s difficult to not be, at very least, hurt. We have to wonder; WHY are some folks prone to self-promotion? Why do some need to be winners and declare others to be losers? Does the overwhelming desire to make others look and feel bad overcome the inherently good person inside? Or is it just the way it is? Something we should think about as we begin our new academic and concert year.