This is a repost I felt to be highly appropriate as we watch the continued political war we’re witnessing this week as we get closer to the November elections. I’ve also experienced a couple things that emphasized again to me the truly twisted nature of domination and competition on a personal level. Our systems and mindsets are broken but there’s still hope… there’s always hope.
Competition motivates us.
A girl gets a degree to earn the edge she uses to divide whatever comes between her and the pursuit of happiness. A guy fights his way up the ladder in his given field leaving some hung on the rungs behind. It’s not his fault, of course; it just the order and way of life. He’s just better at what he does, that’s all.
A girl marries… maybe because she thinks she’s in-love but also to lose a stigma and gain a status. If the guy is fortunate in his choice, he’ll be further validated by his partner’s beauty, intellect, or adoration. Both of them want everyone to know they have what it takes to get what they want out of life. This is only natural.
How appropriate that Darwin classified biological processes as “natural” selection. Life and all its rewards are just a matter of “survival of the fittest” right? Ecology, capitalism, socialism, and communism are all different levels of the same concept; from the lowest, most instinctual behaviors to the highest powers, humanity competes for the most and best of everything.
This was on my mind a great deal this week as I was watching the competition being waged over the U.S. presidency. My academic discipline is based on rhetoric and debate so politics still maintains a high degree of priority in my thoughts and attention. On a global scale, competition between the nations is rising as countries like Iran and Israel continue to face off in the Middle East and countries like Russia and North Korea acquire weaponry in the growing shadow of China. The battling titans seem to eclipse any lesser rivalries but those everyday challenges still feel like a big deal to those of us living with them, don’t they?
A girl is often thought more beautiful or desirable if the guys are battling it out for her attention; a guy is usually considered more respectable if he’s better than other men in business, athletics, music, engineering, etc. You have to compete to get a job; you have to compete for scholarships; you have to compete for status or the symbols representing it; sometimes you have to compete for love from family, friends, or peers. Even churches are competing against one another for higher attendance numbers and better overseas missions programs. Whether or not we’re cognizant of it all the time, contention, antagonism, and rivalry are a normal part of our day-to-day lives. Society is built on dissatisfaction, envy, and competition.
How does this fit with the verse in Philippians that says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility consider others better than yourselves”? I remember a professor telling me a couple years ago that competition wasn’t “in the nature of our Lord Jesus.” I hadn’t thought about that before. I suppose I always considered competition a good thing.
Growing up, my family loved games. My grandpa and I would poke fun at each other over Risk or Scrabble as we tried to dominate the board. My brothers still love to play Super Mario Brawl matches. I’ve competed for jobs, scholarships, and awards; I run 10k races every year. We have sometimes called it “playing for blood” when competition gets intense. My extended family values sports and team competition as character building exercises and become maniacs… literally exemplifying borderline insane obsession… during football season especially if it’s Ohio State football. Ultimately, I have to admit I understand. Who doesn’t love the feeling of taking first place or the pride of having supported the winners before they won?
Then I remember… my idea of winning is different from God’s. “The first will be last?! Are you kidding?” Matthew 20 sounds like ridiculous, confusing, double talk if your spiritual eyes are closed but the Bible IS the ultimate knowledge foundation so… openness and a willingness to try is a start. When Jesus said “if anyone wants to be first, he must be… the servant of all” in Mark 9, even though it sounds foreign to a culture that values assertiveness, we realize culture obviously doesn’t have the answers; it’s always changing the standard (beauty, fashion, gender roles, food portions, movie rating criteria, etc.) You know what I’m talking about. One thing hasn’t changed; according to any “normal” person fighting to live life in the 6th century B.C., death on a cross looked like the most painful, abysmal failure of all time. It would probably still look that way today. However, in reality, that event was the most incredible victory in history. One side was playing for blood, the other side paid in blood. Ironically, the side playing for blood lost.
Now, when I think about survival of the fittest I think of the verse that says “whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:24) Our biggest challenge is in getting the FACT that our heads are a mess. We only think we’re clever. The only way to fix us is to “give [our] bodies to God for all he’s done for [us]… don’t copy the behaviors and customs of this world but let God transform into a new person by changing the way you think.” (Rom. 12:1-3)