I Wish the Best For You
There is nothing wrong with competition. When we compete against other people, it drives us to be better. For instance, if you are running a race against someone, you are likely to run faster than if you are running by yourself. Because competition drives us to be better. The same is true when we compete on a team against another team. Competition drives a team to be more cohesive when playing against another team.
Competition is being ruined in four ways in the world today. First, there so much pressure to “win” today, that it is making people full of anxiety to even get in and compete. People are so afraid to lose or be identified as a “loser”, they don’t even want to get in and try. Second, the pressure to win is so great, that people are cheating in order to get ahead. I have been told by many students that there is so much pressure to get good grades so that they can get into college that many people are cheating to get through school. I’ve even been told that because virtually everyone is cheating to get a good grade, that if one is honest in their studies, they might actually not get the top grade, so people would rather cheat their way through school than be honest because there is that much pressure to get the top grade, whether you’ve earned it or not. Third, there are many who think that competition is not healthy, because when there is a competition, there is by necessity winners and losers. So, as to not make the losers feel bad, trophies are given to everyone, which causes there to be no difference between winning and losing, when everyone is treated as a winner.
All of these factors make for unhealthy competition. In II Timothy 2:5, we read, “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” In the ancient Olympics, one was a champion because they prepared to compete and gave the best of themselves. Competing honestly and with integrity was prized as much as winning. People also knew how to lose—they could shake the hand of the one that won and congratulate them on the effort. In the world today, we have forgotten how to lose gracefully and tip our hats to a worthy opponent who bested us.
Which brings us to the fourth way that competition has been ruined, and that is, “we’ve made everything a competition.” And because virtually everything has become a competition, when we encourage one another, it seems we run the risk of falling behind, or wishing someone well, perhaps to our own demise. This is not how things should work.
Encouragement means, among other things, “I wish the best for you.” Encouragement is not about the encourager. It’s about the person receiving encouragement. Encouraging others should not take away from our own sense of self-worth. If anything, it should add to it. For instance, if I tell another priest that he gives good sermons, it doesn’t devalue my sermons. I want all priests to give good sermons. That’s because I see other priests more as brothers and not as competitors.
I’m sure that it is difficult for one student to encourage another student on a test, because they are both competing for a grade. If high school senior student A encourages senior student B and both are applying to the same school, maybe student A fears that student B might get in to, while student A will not. Hence, student A might discourage or belittle student B, seeing student B as competition.
Competition is good when it inspires people to be the best version of themselves. It becomes a negative thing when competition fosters discouragement and tearing down others rather than encouragement and building others up. Ideally, we need to come to a place where we can encourage others and mean it, where we can say “I wish the best for you,” and really believe that. We should be able to hope for the best for those around us, without thinking that their successes will lessen our own successes.
Encouragement really is an “art form.” It takes a steady hand to make a beautiful painting. And it takes a steady heart to offer encouragement in the midst of a world where everything is so competitive. We all need encouragement. However, if we all see one another as competitors and combatants, it is going to be difficult to offer encouragement as well as expecting to receive it.
Encouragement means “I wish the best for you,” and we can all work a little harder at saying that and meaning it. We’ve all got to come to a place where we can sincerely encourage others, and understanding that their success doesn’t necessarily preclude our success or make us more likely to fail. And sometimes when we encourage others, and they do “better” than us, we’ve got to go back to ancient times and be able to tip our hats to them, and congratulate them.
Lord, help me to see the good in others. Help me to truly wish for the best for others, to see others in a positive way, and not in a competitive way.
Help me to understand that the success of another will not result in failure for me, so that I can encourage others without reservation.
Help me to know that I am in competition with no one but myself.
May I honor you by honoring others. Amen.
It’s hard to encourage people if we are sizing everyone up as competition. Encouragement means “I wish the best for you,” and we can all work a little harder at saying that and meaning it.