A friend told me of a man at a vending machine pushing coins into the slot and pressing the button. With each push came another can of Coke. A woman watching this, said to him, “You must really love Coke!” The man responded, “When you’re on a winning streak like this why would you stop.” It’s a silly story but it reminds us of a world in which a winning streak is all important to some people. A winning streak is attractive, but have you ever given any thought to the expression, “a winning streak”? It’s an expression that indicates winning is momentary, streaky, it won’t last. It wants the easy, no effort journey to instant gratification.
So what do you do when the winning streak is over and the instant gratification is gone? Move on to another machine? There are no shortages of new machines, ideas and voices wooing us to new options offering us greater wins if only we would chance our arm and push in a few more coins.
People sometime live their whole lives like this. It’s one thing to pull a stuffed animal or beverage from a vending machine but when you start living like this in your relationships disaster inevitably follows.
Relationships are never perfect and require a massive amount of work that a “winning streak” mentality fails to appreciate. “Winning Streak Relationalists”, (I apologies for the made-up word) as the title suggests, are selfish. They only invest with a view to what they can get back. They reduce people to vending machines. The customer is the machine from which I extract the wealth to pleasure myself. The business owner is just a machine to provide what I want. Sex is a win from a machine not an act of love. Spouses are nothing more than servants of your comfort, children the vicarious opportunity to live out your own dreams and people are the mechanism to promote self. Put just enough in to each to get something you want out. When the relationship doesn’t deliver then go and look for another machine. Divorce yourself from one machine and find another that offers you the return you are looking for.
I don’t envy anyone who shops with, or sells to, or has sex with, or is married to, the “Winning Streak Relationalist.” Who wants to be treated as little more than a machine?
I have put this fairly crassly but I imagine there are some reading this article who have felt that this is exactly the way they are treated. There are probably others who began reading this article who are no longer doing so because this vending machine information is challenging their winning streak.
If I could diagnose a “winning streak culture” the symptoms would be thanklessness, lack of generosity, self-pity, whinging, cruelty, dishonesty, impatience, joylessness, and lack of self-control to name but a few. Could that be us? If it is then we need serious help.
One of the most happily quoted moments in the Bible is from a letter written in the first century to people living in Corinth. Here is its challenge, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” The perfection of this kind of love was seen in Jesus Christ. His love didn’t give us a winning streak. It made us winners forever. Unsurprisingly the vending machine, winning streak relationalists crucified him. They always do.