Hello, my name is Scott, I am a recovering competitor. . .
That sentence started a conversation when I first wrote about competition on the blog in 2010 and repeated it in 2012. I am thinking about completion again as I look at the social media frenzy about Cam Newton’s actions and interviews and remember Peyton Manning acting not too dissimilar in 2010. I see what I call poor sportsmanship in athletic events from little league parents to professional athletes and every level in between. Have we allow competition to become less than friendly?
Competition is addictive. Competition drives the American business model. Competition runs deep in the heart and soul of many people. Can you finish this jingle from years gone by, “My dog’s better than your dog . . .” I admit, wholeheartedly that I am a competitor. I like to win when I play basketball, I like for the team I support to win championships (Roll Tide Roll!). But competition can often get in the way of positive outcomes. There were times I acted immaturely during and after sporting events. I have scars on my knuckle from bleachers at my Alma Mater, and embarrassing memories of church league softball as a second baseman and minister.
Without fail, when I mention that I am “against competition,” someone will try to tell me that most of life is competition. The usual arguments include competing with other men for the affection of the one I would eventually marry. I did not feel I was in competition with any other men. Amy and I formed a friendship, that slowly moved to a romantic attachment, that quickly and naturally became exclusive. Until the day, I proposed to her and she accepted, we were both open to the fact that if either one felt that our relationship was not going to last, that we had the right and responsibility to end it. Once we said, “I do” however, the relationship became completely exclusive.
A second argument is that as a preacher, I competed for the role of ministry where I am currently located. There were other men looking at my current position, and the elders were considering other men for this work. Did I desire that those men lose to me? No! I came looking at the opportunity here and allowing the folk here to see if I fit what they were looking for. If so, then I was open to move. If not, then I would continue where I was and be open to other opportunities that God would have me pursue. I did not compete for this position, I came as myself and let things work as they would.
More recently, someone suggested that I am in competition with Satan for souls. At first I had no answer. As I thought more about this my answer is this: God is at war with Satan. Satan is destroying souls and lives. God wants lives rescued from the disaster that Satan causes. I am not competing with Satan, if I do, I lose by a long shot, “Wide is the path that leads to destruction and many there will be that find it.” Maybe this is narrow-minded of me, but I see my role as seeking to rescue folks from sin and the resulting wrath of God, not win an argument with them. I present an offer of salvation through the only avenue that can save them – Christ (John 14:6) and let them decide for themselves. I plant the seed and in some cases water the soil or young growth, but it is God who gives the increase. God battles Satan and the victory is His in Christ (1 Cor 15:57).
When local churches of Christ compete for members, feelings suffer, accusations fly, and fellowship crumbles. When Churches come to realize they are autonomous and can work together, we accomplish more for the Lord’s cause. When a program focuses on the outcome of competitions then the effectiveness of that ministry suffers. When a program focuses of the mission of Christ (rescuing the lost, serving others, etc.) we are not in competition, but in cooperation.
Back to how I apply this to me. In our family when we play card games, board games, and other similar games, we play for the fun of the game and the conversations that occur as we play. I don’t win a lot of games, we do not even finish games, but we have fun being together. I repeat my belief that competition can often get in the way of more positive outcomes. I am trying for a less competitive life. Am I completely free of competition? No. I still compete with myself to improve myself to do my best and I take that one day at a time and I still struggle when I am playing a game with someone who is super-competitive. I just have to ask myself, “what does it matter in the end?”
What are your thoughts on competition?