Have you ever heard the phrase that competition is envy’s ugly sister? As a society we idolize a winner. Our culture doesn’t judge people based on their holiness or piety but on the number of degrees, trophies and worldly connections they have. We root for our favorite team, we like to win in a friendly tennis match, in general, we like to do better than the other. The antithesis of the way of our Lord.
And it’s probably because competition is such a standard part of our culture that it’s also part of our everyday Christian lives. But it shouldn’t be so. In Philippians 2:3, St. Paul says: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
If we examined ourselves honestly, would we be able to recall the last time we genuinely and humbly regarded another more significant than ourselves? Let’s take a look at five ways we can turn that around and use worldly competition for Christian profit:
Don’t just talk. Listen. And I mean genuinely listen. Everyone has a story. Everyone wants to tell their story. Even if you have nothing in common with another person, you’d be surprised by how much someone will share simply by giving them the space to be themselves, and there’s no better way to do that than to be a good listener.
Ask genuine questions without being nosy. I find the best way to do that is to listen first and ask follow up questions. Generally, a person will only reveal what they are comfortable with. Of course, this is hard when the person you are talking to is only interested in telling you about how great they are. With the grace of God, look past that because we all have insecurities. If someone’s trying to impress you, that means they like you, disarm them with your love. Which brings me to:
Don’t judge. This is really hard. I tend to jump to conclusions without truly understanding a situation or the person. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten since becoming a mom is that everyone needs someone to understand. This was parenting advice, but it applies to all situations in life. We all want someone to understand. And judging does such a disservice to that. Frankly, it injures the dignity of the other because ultimately, we don’t know the person’s heart.
Have a sense of (self-abasing) humor. One of my favorite ways to break the ice is to joke about my own ineptitude, for example, I’m a terrible baker because I don’t follow recipes. I have an inexplicable urge to wing it or entirely change the recipe. This makes for liquified cookies and inedible, rock-hard cakes which then makes for funny banter. But don’t do what I just did here, talk about baking when the conversation is about competition, that is, your banter should happen within the context of the conversation. Doing it otherwise would draw attention to yourself, rather than the other.
Don’t say “me too,” and sometimes the “me too” will be what connects you, that’s not what I mean. The “me too” I’m taking about is the “me too, up you one.” Unless you are trying to encourage someone by sharing your experience or need help or advice yourself, its best to stay away from “me too.”
Let’s pray for each other. May the Lord give us the grace to compete only in the one race worth running that St. Paul talks about in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith…”
St. Therese of Lisieux pray for us!