Is Competition Good?
In many ways, my life has been defined by competition. For me, that has not been a bad thing, because I’ve had more than my share of “wins” in the arenas in which I’ve competed. But an unsettling thought has rattled around in my brain recently: is competition good?
At the risk of sounding un-American, I wonder if we push too far in this direction. I certainly see a level of intensity that makes me cringe when I watch kids’ sports. When parents get into literal fights over the outcome of a 10-year old baseball game, something is wrong. And I’m equally uncomfortable with the enormous lengths that people go to so that they can win the “college admission competition” (including hiring specialists to help fill out applications or downright cheating to get into the “best” school).
Someone may reply, “Competition is a way to motivate people to do their best and to select those who most deserve advancement.” I agree, and this has served me well in life. My competitive drive pushes me to do my best. I love an objective standard that tells me whether or not I won.
So what’s the problem? For those who succeed often, every victory can push us further away from God. The very thing we are running after can hurt us as we begin to believe that we truly are superior to others and deserving of praise. We forget that “every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). That’s a dangerous place for any Christian to stand.
In addition, the competitive drive may spill over into other areas of our lives and we may end up defining every situation as a contest. If you tend to see colleagues as rivals and can’t celebrate their successes, or if it’s impossible to play a friendly family board game, perhaps it’s time to recalibrate your attitude and your inner drive.
This blog is for me as much as anyone. I want to compete for “a crown that will last forever” (1 Cor. 9:25). I don’t expect to lose my competitive drive, but I hope to have a different outlook on this question in the future.