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Competition: Fuel on the Field, but Poison Among Peers

  Think about your best childhood friend. You likely have great memories with this person, and he or she has had a huge influence on your life. Consider the qualities that made this person your best friend. Was is that he was faster, stronger, and better than everyone else? Was it that she was the smartest or best looking? I doubt it. I bet you bonded over common interests, and you felt like you could be yourself around this person without being judged. You took some risks by being vulnerable and your friend did as well. You felt companionship, not competition.
I believe God has been teaching me for a while now that I ought to pursue connection over respect. Said another way, I ought to desire being enjoyed more than I desire being admired. If someone is out to prove that they are worthy of respect, it is difficult to be vulnerable and connect intimately with that person. This is why we must choose to pursue one over the other. You may respect someone with whom you have a deep connection. However, it is difficult to enjoy someone who is out to earn your admiration.
Competing is exhausting! I am tired of competing in church by acting like I know more or have more affection for Jesus than I really do. I am tired of competing as a professional by measuring my knowledge, ability, and influence against that of my colleagues. I am tired of competing as a friend by measuring how others perceive me verses how others perceive them. I am tired of seeing mothers compete by measuring their children's intellect, behavior, sleeping patterns, or development against those qualities in others' children.
What if, instead of striving for respect, we focus on connection? What if we seek to vulnerably connect in church rather than hoping others will admire how awesome our walk with God is? What if we aim to encourage colleagues rather than seeking to impress them with our work performance? What if friends strive to celebrate each other's joys and mourn each other's sorrows instead of comparing successes and struggles? What if mothers vulnerably and honestly share the joys and struggles of motherhood rather than picking and choosing what to share in order to guard their appearance?
Do I want to be respected? Absolutely! But I am finding my desire for connection growing and my need for respect diminishing. I think and hope that is God's work in my life. As this happens, I feel less pressure to impress. I feel that I can be honest instead of exaggerating the good and minimizing my struggles. I am a Christian Counselor, so I sometimes feel I should be past this struggle of finding my value in how I measure up. I am not. That may lose me some respect points, but I bet some of you can relate with that struggle. Something tells me we can connect more in this struggle than we can in our strengths.
Let's compete on the court, the field, and the track. I love competition in these arenas. However, with God's help let's seek to enjoy one another in the church, the home, and the community. Throughout the Bible, we see that God is in the business of connecting people to himself and to each other (Gen. 2:18, Pr. 18:24; Jn 15:13-15; 1 Cor. 1:10, 3:3; Eph. 2:14; James 2:23). Let's not allow our desire to be admired get in the way!

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