At CSO, we write on the brokenness of sports. As you read what we say, you might get the message that we think
competition is bad. We don’t.
“I have, unfortunately, viewed most of my life through the lens of competition. I could blame it on …But most likely, competition is just the default position of my heart….And to be fair, it’s not all bad. Viewing life as competition has motivated me to work harder at school, work, and personal growth. It has prompted discipline and perseverance….Viewing life only as competition has terrible drawbacks. It pursues success for only the self. It breeds jealousy and envy. It withholds encouragement. It mistreats others on its way to the finish line. A world divided into winners and losers is one that misses the opportunity to show grace….Our world needs people who compete less and encourage more.”
While I agree with much of his sentiment, I find exception to his use of words. For instance, I would change his statements to the following:
“I have, unfortunately, viewed most of my life through the lens of fallen competition. I could blame it on…But most likely, competition is just the default position of my heart.”
“Viewing life only as fallen competition has terrible drawbacks. It pursues success for only the self. It breeds jealousy and envy. It withholds encouragement. It mistreats others on its way to the finish line. A world divided into winners and losers is one that misses the opportunity to show grace.”
These I agree with. Fallen competition – that strives against others to more fully establish my glory – IS TRULY the default of everyone’s heart. The drawbacks ARE EXACTLY as he says.
- In fallen competition, the pursuit of success is only for self.
- Fallen competition does breed jealousy and envy.
- Fallen competition does mistreat others on its way to the finish line.
- Fallen competition does assume that success in another’s life equals one less opportunity for success in mine.
But the answer isn’t getting rid of competition and replacing it with encouragement. The answer is to redeem the competition, to take it back to the way God intended.
If we see the solution to this problem as merely a switch from competition to encouragement, we oversimplify this redemption. In the process, we could also miss the beauty and depth to this redemption. Competition came before the fall not after. Original and, therefore, redeemed competition is about striving together to more fully express in others and us the image of God within us.
Certainly, redeemed competition includes encouragement, but it involves so much more. This same writer describes this redeemed competition as follows:
“It becomes about the challenge, the experience, the unity of a common goal, and the opportunity to help someone else cross the finish line with you….As a result, the entire route is filled with encouragement from bystanders and competitors completely committed to running well and helping other racers finish strong.”
Do you hear what he is saying? This competition is not just about encouragement. It is also about “the challenge…the common goal…running well.” All this striving not for our glory but to spur others to more fully express their God given glory. This heart of competition is lost if all I do is switch “compete to encourage” as the author does.
“Our world needs people who compete less and encourage more.”
At CSO, we would say “our world needs people who compete in a fallen way less and compete in a redeemed way more.”
This is not just semantics. The beauty of the heart of competition, this striving together, is at stake. If all I do is focus on encouragement, this heart could just so easily be lost as it has so tragically been marred in fallen competition.
Competition doesn’t need to be eliminated. It needs to be redeemed.