Competition, Competition, COMP-UUUHHH-TITION!
This was a favorite cheer of mine from a summer camp i attended as a child. It heartily expressed the passion within me to not only excel in everything, but to blow the competition away!
It has taken 23 years, but i've changed. I hate competition. I don't know if hate is the biblical word for it, but at least let's say it is very distasteful to me. You see, from an early age, I have won almost everything i wanted to win, and that was what kept my head up and my confidence in place. I am still proud of all my number one prizes in elementary school (that, sadly, has not changed...yet). For 23 years, I have relied on my own abilities to define who I am, even who I wanted to appear to be in Christ. My struggle with perfection is strong. I was constantly told i was a competitive child. I loved it! Because, sadly, this culture defines winning as success. Do whatever you can do to beat your opponent, go to the extreme, try to get away with as much as you can. So i did. In high school, I learned to tackle girls in soccer without getting a foul. Pull down on the opponent's sleeve, come in from the side, fall down with her, etc. I was the tackler, and it was my job to be on the best player of the team, and annihilate them. Sounds way intense, but have you ever watched sports?? Bitty ball is even intense. When you are a player on that field/court/track/etc., you are not trying to be Jesus to your opponents. You are trying to annihilate them. Especially in Christian environments.
I'm reading "Too Small To Ignore" by the CEO of Compassion International, Dr. Wess Stafford. I HIGHLY recommend this book. God has used it to open my eyes to many things, but especially to this parasite of competition. Wess has an interesting story. He's an m.k. who grows up in the tiny village of Nielle, Africa. Only when he arrives in America does he see the polar differences between us and his former home. The people in that village had one pressing goal: to survive. Everyone worked together to make sure the whole village had enough food and protection. They ate together. They tended their neighbors' fields. They offered anything they had to give. As a little boy, Wess learned the trades of an African boy. One of their main responsibilites was to ward off unwanted visitors (animals). They used slingshots, which became, of course their most prized possession and thrilling activity. Every hit and every effort was rewarded with applause. If one boy ran out of smooth round stones, many hands reached out to offer him more. They never kept tallies of who hit what and how many times. I see three-year-olds in America that keep score in their activities with others. It has been so instilled in us to win, that we end up forgetting about those we have trampled along the way. That is why it is so hard for us to share. What child doesn't hold her doll close so that others won't "mess it up"? What boy doesn't grasp his ball with white knuckles as his sister comes his way? Today, I should use video controllers as the object, this would be more conducive:) Yes, we are to compete with those who serve other gods, but when did that include the intense girl in the shinguards or the neighbor boy with the cool toy truck?
Paul's statement in Philippians of having fought the good fight and won the prize is very misunderstood by, i think, every American. Well yeah, he won. But he was encouraging us so that we may join him on the center podium. It was a race against evil; all who are in Christ are winners! How comforting that is, but at the same time rather dismal, knowing that it took me 23 years to understand.
i recall that most of my friendships, until recently, have been battered and bruised by competition. I have athletic, smart, successful friends. One is an Olympian. Others are so brainy that they get to go to college for free. A few others are just selfless...and that makes me angry b/c i know i am not (and i should be). They are winning against selfishness. And some are just rich and gorgeous and get everything they want. Every time someone i love succeeds, I fake my happiness for them and hide my jealous heart. Whether they pick up on it or not, it affects our friendship. I build a wall between us, so as not to get hurt (read: beat) again. Inside i am conniving how to get something for myself that they can't. Try to ONE-UP 'em. I still think this way, but now I see the extreme folly in it, and i try to be quick to acknowledge my sin and cry out to the One who knows my deepest secrets. So slowly, I am getting excited for those who are blessed around me, even when i am not. truly excited. overjoyed, even. it's still a long road ahead. Thank God i have a Light to guide me.
Now, let me clarify something before I conclude. Success is good. Success is not a sin. The Bible urges us to give our all and do our best all the time. I am not fighting success. But that has been completely skewed! When did doing our best necessitate doing BETTER than those around us? Name one time when Jesus applauds the man who beats out the competition. Name one time when Jesus Himself has a competitive spirit.
This is my conclusion: I am fed up with being competitive. As our culture continues to thrive on and revolve around the world of competition and as long as there are Sunday football games, Sunday practices, late night practices, and anything else that takes us away from our number one priorities: God and family...as long as that is going on...I will be fighting. I don't know how i'm gonna fight yet, but by golly, i will...be....fighting... nothing should be compromised on account of competitive activities...the Great Commission, the 10 Commandments, the praise of our Father, and the 24/7 striving to please Him in all that we do. So i'm tired of those Christians who hide under Paul's words. My purpose in writing all of this is not to condemn everyone with a competitive spirit, but just to let you know how my heart has been changed, and how a little bit of it's outer wall has been chipped away. I feel my greatest challenge in all this is to learn to someday raise children who do not live life trying to be number one. It's going to be hard. I'm gonna start praying now.