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Bouncing Back From Defeat: What to do When You Run for Office But Lose
Tuesday, May 8, 2018 1:59 PM

Bouncing Back From Defeat: What to do When You Run for Office But Lose

Tuesday, May 8, 2018 1:59 PM
Tuesday, May 8, 2018 1:59 PM

Sometimes God allows us to lose a race to test how badly we want to serve. If you're the "one and done" typethat's all you will ever be.

And sometimes He allows defeat more than once. More than twice.

I lost my first city council race. I ran four subsequent times and never lost again.

Losing a political campaign hurts. You put in months sometimes years of hard work.

Unless one has lived through it, it is difficult to understand or comprehend the depth and width of pain.

You hurt not only for yourself and lost opportunity, but for the pain and disappointment of family and friends who lived and died with every insult, lie and misrepresentation of your character.

You feel you let down volunteers who spent hours away from their families and in some cases jobs to put out yard signs, make phone calls or work the polls.

You're on an emotional roller coaster.

If there is any consolation at all, and this is what I had to comfort myself with when I lost - know that God is yet in control.

He may not be saying no, just not yet. Or, as was the case with me, not this office but one even higher.

Scripture teaches that God withholds no good thing from us (Psalm 84:11). That includes the office or position He has pre-determined for us. He knows what is ahead and sometimes what appears to be defeat is actually protection; or, part of His perfecting process to prepare us for something more.

Defeat in the life of a Christian is either a delay or a detour.

What we think is best, could be far less than what God has purposed for us. And sometimes in order to get to the best, we have to experience the pain of loss along the way.

When I first ran and lost city council, I ran for a district seat. The citywide seat I would win five years later, had not even been created when I ran the first time. Wasn't even a thought.

The citizens voted on a city charter change, adding an additional at-large seat to the council.

My goal from the beginning was to serve in whatever capacity I could to make our city better.

When I lost, I continued to serve as a volunteer on city boards, the local chamber of commerce, in the Rotary Club; however and wherever I could help.

I kept the right attitude, right spirit, never lashed out at anyone and when the new citywide seat was created, even some who had opposed me five years earlier, joined with others to recruit me to run for the new citywide (at-large) seat.

If your heart's desire is to serve, don't be surprised when your heart is broken trying to serve.

If you really want to serve, a loss will never be a deterrent.

It's not losing, but how you lose. Even though losing hurts, it's a matter of if we can still praise God and serve with the same enthusiasm in defeat as we would have in victory. And, our willingness to trust God by getting back up again.

How to Handle the Loss

If you lose, it is imperative to do these five key things to recover, re-group and re-charge in ways that are healthy and productive:

  1. Be grateful for the opportunity to have run. Many who dream of running for elective office never make it past the dream. Express gratitude in tangible ways to those who helped you. They likely will not expect it but expressed gratitude goes a long way. If nothing more than a $25 gift card to a local restaurant. It's not the amount they'll remember, but the gesture. And, they will more likely sign up to volunteer next time.
  2. Keep smiling, keep serving, keep believing. Seek out other opportunities as quickly as possible to serve and let there be no task too menial. This shows humility, sincerity and those watching will be impressed by your willingness to still serve in a much lesser role.
  3. Never be bitter and if you are, never show it. It will pass. Figure out what you did wrong and determine not to do it next time around. Bitterness is always a turn off and no matter how much good you do subsequent to a bitter display of emotion, people will peg you a sore loser.
  4. Stay informed, stay involved, stay hungry and stay after it. People are more likely to vote for you the next time around if they have become more familiar with you and have become accustomed to seeing you around. You no longer will be just a name on the ballot, but a fellow volunteer, club or chamber member - even friend.
  5. Never place blame or point fingers.  This is never a good look! Accept loss as the will of the people, even more important, the will of God. We show respect for voters when we win and serve well.

We show more respect and class when we lose but still serve well.

People in many cases watch the reactions and actions of the loser more closely than the winner.

It's the same reason why people slow down in traffic to gawk at a car wreck.

Don't be the wreck many want to see. As a Christ follower, be the example many need to see!

Keep your head up and if I can encourage you with this last but most important thought - if God called you, He knows where to find you. And He already knew the outcome of the race before you even filed.

You may have lost the race, but God hasn't lost sight of you. In fact, He had his eye and hand on you the whole time. He still does.

He's not through with you, He's perfecting you. 

KSU - Keep. Showing. Up.


Dorothy Burton is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Christians in Public Service, Inc. and the author of the book, Why We Fall.

She is a popular writer and speaker, speaking to faith and non-faith based groups, organizations and local governments on servant leadership and current events impacting public policy and American culture - offering practical and biblical solutions to common leadership challenges uncommon in 21st century public space.

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Bouncing Back From Defeat: What To Do When You Run For Office But Lose