How is it possible that I can be an otherwise healthy and mature adult, and upon being told I’ve been put on a team, suddenly revert to the non-athletic youth feeling sick to my stomach? What does it say about me? What does it say about the way competition affects individuals and society in general?
We will get the question of me out-of-the-way first. I am not now, nor have I ever been, an athlete. Three of my siblings were great athletes, which is how I came to know that I was not! I am not a total klutz, but I don’t enjoy competition. I think a large part of that comes from the relay races we had to do for years in gym classes. You know the ones, “when the whole team has gone sit down,” they would say. You became very unpopular if you were the one who “made the team lose.” I particularly disliked when the teacher would then make our team run laps because we came last in the fun race! As soon as they told us to line up on one side of the gym I was already feeling sick, and to this day I avoid the situation at almost any cost.
For me, the word team is associated with such terms and phrases as; letting down the side, holding the team back, winner, loser, last picked, bench warmer and “oh no, not her!” I think I am supposed to think about things like; two heads are better than one, teamwork, support, sense of belonging, productivity, and fun”
Competition is underpinning of our world. We don’t want regulation in industry or commerce, we want to allow competition. We need to get ahead. We worry about coming first, or for folks like me, not coming last. Some of the most highly paid individuals in the world are our professional athletes.
I feel like I say this in almost every post, but this is nothing new. There have been wars, basically competitions for power and land from the earliest times. Even the Jesus’ disciples engaged in competition over things like who would get to sit on his right and left in the kingdom (Matt 20:21), who was greatest among them? (Mark 9:34, Luke 22:24)
Jesus answers in Matt 20:23 that the assigning of seating in heaven is not his to determine. He spends a lot of time in his ministry turning this kind of competition on its head. “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” (Matt 19:30) He also gives careful instructions about avoiding embarrassment at a banquet by taking the seat farthest from the seat of honour. (Luke 14:8)
I am not against working with other people. I like working with partners and groups. I serve frequently on committees and that is all good. Even if I wanted to, though, I don’t think I could change my feelings about competition and I’m ok with that as well. When it comes time for the banquets I don’t care if I sit in the kitchen, so long as I’m invited and have the good sense to take the time to attend!