I am a very competitive person when it comes to games. Everyone in my family is (except my mum who will let the other team win if she thinks it will mean more to them – no one wants to be on the same team as my mum), and when my three sisters and I were younger this led to a lot of arguments.
However, as I have gotten older I have tried to let go of some of my competitiveness. I’ve even started playing co-operative games (where everyone is working together, and no one in particular wins).
So, in light of this, a few weeks ago I introduced a new co-operative game to our Youth Group. I had only just finished explaining the rules of the game when one of our girls looked up with a frown and asked, “But how do we know who wins?”
“No one wins,” I replied. “It’s just about having fun.”
That didn’t go down so well (we have some very competitive people in our youth group), and in the end we changed the rules of the game so that we could have fun and know who the winner was.
Incidentally, I think I lost every single game.
Competitiveness can be defined as ‘having or displaying a strong desire to be more successful than others,’ which is fine when all I’m desiring is to be more successful at the game ‘Ticket to Ride’ than my sister, but I’ve found that it gets a lot more problematic when I get competitive about my actual life.
See, I find that when I start desiring to be ‘more successful than others’ in my work, study, sport, life, or appearance, I start caring about what others are thinking and saying. Because everyone knows that in order to really know who has won, you need a judge or a referee; and so, I start promoting the people around me to be the judges and referees of my life.
This means that when they tell me that I’ve done well, I’m really excited because I’m winning! But when they complain about me, it cuts me deep because that means that I’m losing. I’m failing at my desire to be more successful than others.
Do you know how stressful it is when I’m constantly trying to win, constantly trying to impress people, constantly trying to be more successful than others around me? Especially since, after I end up promoting everyone I know to the positions of judge and referee, I realise how completely impossible it is to please everyone.
I start working too hard and for too long. I start spending money that I shouldn’t because maybe if I have that new pair of boots I’ll be more successful. I start insulting myself and telling myself that I’m not good enough. I start pretending to better, smarter, stronger than I really am so that other people will give me their approval.
And then bad things happen.
The thing is, though, just like my youth group changed the rules of the game to allow for a winner, I’ve allowed my competitiveness to turn the ‘Game of Life’ into something that God never intended it to be.
Romans 2:29 says that “a person with a changed heart (in other words, a Christian) seeks praise from God, not from people.”
God doesn’t want me to be constantly looking for other people’s approval.
He doesn’t want me to turn the life that he’s given me into a competition to see who will be the most successful.
And he definitely doesn’t want me to beat myself up when the referees and judges I’ve appointed tell me that I’m not good enough.
God wants me to look to him for approval. He wants me to care more about what he thinks of me than what others think of me. He wants me to actually have fun playing ‘The Game of Life’.
And I’m learning that, when I let go of my competitiveness, when I ask God for help in removing my desire to be more successful than others, when I look to God for approval instead of the people around me, I’m a lot happier.
It turns out that fun doesn’t come from winning. Fun comes from enjoying the game, and knowing that my Heavenly Father thinks that I am exactly the kind of successful that he has asked me to be right now.