Does Competition Inspire You or Make You Angry?

What do you do when you work hard at something?
Are you competitive against others or is your nature more to compel people forward?
What are you like when you work with your team? Your spouse?
Would you consider yourself a team player or more a one-man show?

Michael and I made a deal early on in our relationship that I wouldn’t work at his store full-time. We are both people who strive for success. A friend pointed out to me it is excellent for our marriage when there’s a moment I can step in and help Michael when he’s in need. It makes me feel valued in our relationship. However, having a high responsibility personality, I have a tendency to put myself down if I don’t meet my own expectations, or feel I’m meeting the expectation of others, so though I love helping him, doing it full-time through work isn’t the best for me or us.

There is the odd moment though when he needs an extra hand with various projects. The most recent opportunity came this past week when his company received a large order of calendars to make.

This project gets me excited every year because there’s one machine in particular that I really enjoy using. Most of the other aspects of the job don’t come as easily to me, but this one, the binding machine, is my specialty. I set the record last year of binding roughly 750 calendars in one hour and made it my aim to remain the reigning champion!

But a threat arose; My brother-in-law, David. Unbeknownst to me, he had been practicing to beat my record!

On the first day of the project this year, I far surpassed my previous record with accomplishing 904 calendars in an hour. This news was quickly passed to David.

As I was eating my breakfast the next morning, enjoying my stardom at the store, Michael shared about this unknown competition taking place. He informed me that David had been building his time, He was in the mid-800’s and was planning to break my record.

No! Would it be possible? I instantly felt threatened at the thought. Based on Michael’s calculations of 20 minutes at the machine, he thought he might do it too. To my embarrassment, I confess that pride and anger flared up in me. How dare they take my title! That’s the one job I’m good at and they’re trying to take that away from me!

Suddenly, holding my title became my only drive. The next morning, I got to the shop and started on the machine. Tired and threatened, my thoughts were focused on criticism and pride until God had me listen to myself. “People screwed up the punching so I can’t do this as quickly!” “The machine isn’t working right.” “My pile of calendars is dwindling. Doesn’t anyone see I need more?”

Total ugliness! I confessed my sins to the Lord and asked Him to help turn my attitude around to honour Him. The only reason I was able to work so quickly was by His strength, which was exactly what I had prayed for the day before, and He had so graciously answered for me. “Ironically,” shortly after that moment, the machine broke down and was in repair the rest of the day.

While spending time with the Lord the next morning, He taught me that this whole thing isn’t about competition against each other. There is personal competition in striving to grow my abilities and do more in order to get the job done efficiently; using the talents God has given me to my fullest potential for His glory and the work to which He has called me.

There’s also a component that by striving to do my best, in turn, I’m setting an example for others as well, to work to their best. Would David have worked as hard if I hadn’t set the bar higher for him? Possibly, but maybe he didn’t know that bar was even achievable. By both of us working to our greatest potential, this encourages others to do the same. The result equals camaraderie built between the staff.

The shop was buzzing with excitement; Laughter and encouragement for all to work well together. The more David and I maxed the ability of the machine to perform, we caused a flurry of work around us. People were graciously putting stacks of calendar bodies on top of the machine so we could continue to bind them. Others were standing at the belt collecting all the finished calendars and filling boxes to ship them to the customers.

While explaining to Michael the lesson God taught me that week, the Lord brought a deeper spiritual truth to light. He used what Paul had written to encourage the church in Philippi, to remain united and focused on the mission set before them.

“Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Therefore, let all of us who are mature think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained. Join in imitating me, brothers and sisters, and pay careful attention to those who live according to the example you have in us.” Philippians 3:12-17

Paul kept Jesus Christ, the Gospel, and the prize promised him forefront in his daily mind. That is what he constantly pursued. As he matured in his faith, he sought to lead others into that calling and deeper relationship with Jesus. He wasn’t prideful in this. In fact, just a few verses before, he was confessing who he had been apart from Christ. Instead, he had been humbled and admitted the only thing he could boast in was Jesus and the work He had done in Paul, not anything of his own fleshly abilities.

Pride and high ego get you in trouble and lead to zero lasting success.

However, as Paul’s mind and spirit were transformed by the Spirit’s work within him, he was able to humbly and boldly lead others further into spiritual maturity. He did this by pointing everyone to Jesus, focusing on the main mission to which we are all called, and cheering everyone on along the way.

With this lesson in mind, I returned to the shop with a new perspective. Instead of focusing on myself and my own abilities, my heart and mind were focused on the Lord. I thanked Him for allowing the machine to run well, and for all the help I was getting to keep the job running quickly. I prayed for the Lord’s favour on this job and the protection and health of all involved. It was a joy to work with everyone as a team rather than thinking I was a one-man show. In turn, by God’s grace, I beat my record again, coming in at 940! Instead of gloating in my success, I was so thankful the Lord gave me the ability to work harder, feeling like Samson fighting 1,000 men.

Michael encouraged me to tell David the new number. I was uncomfortable, but saw the value in giving him opportunity to continue to aim for greater success.

The thing is, I know both David and Michael can surpass me. They are very capable and skilled men in production at the store. With Paul’s message in mind, I hope they do too, because that proves we can accomplish so much more together, fulfilling the mission of completing the project in good timing. Cheering for one another encourages the staff to grow and develops a greater team atmosphere, because it takes multiple people and stages to do that job well!

Is there a project you’re working on, whether in employment or recreationally, where you’ve been focusing on yourself more than the mission? Confess your intentions to the Lord and seek His forgiveness. Then, ask Him how you can encourage your team. Are there ways you can work together to accomplish the tasks better? Remember to cheer for everyone involved, from the most seemingly insignificant element to the hardest.

Ultimately, you and I should always be looking to the Lord for all we do, and encouraging others in their endeavours, because that is part of living out the greatest commandment given to us, to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,” and “your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

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