Competition—Good or Not?

Superbowl 2020 is over, and the Kansas City Chiefs are the winners. This is one of the most watched competitions. It seems we are hard-wired to engage in competitions. We grow up competing in various ways. In school we participate in spelling bees. We play games like Pin the Tail on the Donkey where one child wins. We enter contests, such as who can come up with the best name for the newborn giraffe. On television we view shows like Jeopardy’s Game of Champions. A presidential race and figure skating championships are now going on, and the Oscar awards are coming up. Do you remember when we had a race to the moon? Competitions encourage us to do our best. In that way, they are beneficial.

Recently I heard a homily which ended with the statement, “Life is meant to be a celebration not a competition.” The reading for the day was the account of King Saul being jealous of David because that youth had killed many more enemies in battle than he had. A sore loser, Saul was determined to kill David. In the beginning of Bible history, something similar happened. Abel’s sacrifice was more pleasing to God than his brother Cain’s, so Cain murdered Abel.

Granted, competitions today usually don’t lead to murders, but they can have other evil consequences. Who can forget Tanya Harding’s desperate action? Most of us acknowledge our tendency to strive to be the best. We even have a saying, “Keeping up with the Joneses.” Our aiming at perfection can go awry when we become jealous and resentful of someone else’s achievement. Rather than letting these hard feelings fester in our heart and ruin our days, how much healthier it would be to rejoice with the person who has bested us. Praise and congratulate them, and not in a grudging way. The ideal is to celebrate another’s success as one’s own. We are all one.

Vince Lombardi, coach of the Green Bay Packers, famously said, “It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose. It’s how you play the game.” And as the priest said, “Life is meant to be a celebration not a competition.” Maybe next time it will be you who wins the lottery!

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