Wednesday, January 26, 2000

The Competitive Fire Within

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:24-26)

Most people who know me consider me to be one of the most competitive people they know (if not THE most). Most of my life I took great pride in that. If you stepped onto the basketball court, the baseball diamond, the bowling alley, the ping pong table, or whatever with me, you knew full well you were not only going to get a challenge, but everything I had to give.

Losing for me was not an option; I simply had to win. This challenge I placed upon myself drove me to improve and drove me to succeed. For years, I considered this a good thing. What was wrong with striving to improve or striving to be the best? It took a great deal of humbling to finally get the answer. For years, I missed what impact my competitiveness was having on others:

One year, I had about 10-15 people over my house to watch the Cowboys in the Super Bowl. Everybody (and I mean everybody) was pulling for the Steelers with passion and fire, even the most passive of football fans. Why on earth was everybody so adamant my beloved team lost?

Another year, I went on a cruise with four of my friends. Things were going great until a chess board was pulled out. My competitive juices started to flow to the point of getting into a severe shouting match with one of my friends. He grew so angry with me he slept out on the deck that night.

For the past five summers I've been playing softball in a league through my church. For the first couple seasons, winning was my chief concern; my batting average was a close second. But two years back, Dee came to one of the games and had a chance to speak with the wife of one of my teammates. Dee told me after the game that my teammate was so concerned about not hitting well, he spent hours at the batting cages before the game. I took it exceptionally hard, and began to wonder if I had done or said anything to fuel his fears of failure. That season, for the first time in my life, winning wasn't my #1 goal. Rooting for another teammate to succeed became my primary focus.

I still enjoy winning and I still love to compete. But I pray I never let those desires negatively impact another person's life again.