COMPARISON AND COMPETITION:
Using Possession or Lack of it to Position Self or Others in the Scale of Significance
“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”—Philippians 2:3.
Your par-excellence is achieved not by undermining your competitors, nor by nullifying their strategies but by maximising your potentials.
A teacher is Better than a Farmer
When I was in primary school in Kenya many years ago, we used to have school debates. The debates were interesting not only because of the way we used to try our debating skills and aspire to master English language but also the kind of topics we used to discuss. Topics like a teacher is better than a farmer; a mother is better than a father; water is better than fire; a doctor is better than a driver, etc. The debating club would choose the speaker and two secretaries, one for the opposers and the other for proposers. Pupils would then choose whichever side they supported.
It was alright to give opportunity to youngsters to think about positive and negative things on each side. In retrospect, I can now see that the choice of topics to be debated on was wanting. These kinds if topics made us grow up with the mentality of comparing people and things that don’t in everyday life compete but complement one another. Sometimes our kids would try to manipulate us. When they are with the mother, they would say: Daddy is better than you. If it were him he could have granted our wish. When they are with me they would say: Mummy is better than you. She always grant our wishes. My answer to them: How can she be better than me? We have not been competing.
How on earth would somebody want to set a mother and a father on a competitive platform? How on earth could somebody compare a farmer and a teacher?
That was Kenya’s primary school in the 70’s. But is it any different in the world in the 21st Century? The mentality of comparing and competing is awash even in areas where they ought to be irrelevant. This is not to say that comparison and competition has no place in life. Competition and comparison is part of life but they must be managed in terms of where they apply and the virtues that go with them. For instance, we expect athletes to compete but we cannot set a marathoner to compete with a sprinter.
The virtue surrounding competition means that the competitors are not enemies but they help one another to be the best each can be. If one is in the front, the others ‘push’ him by chasing behind him; if one is back, he is being ‘pulled’ by the natural drive that makes him want to catch up with the leader. In this way, each athlete with give it all he has. If one was pace-setting, he would be helping the race to break the record. When the pace-setter stops, the others don’t stop.
In life generally, and in stewardship particularly, the above rules must be adhered to strictly if any manner of competition and comparison are inevitable. We have to remember that there are some manner of competition and comparison that constitute envy and jealous. If we want something for example, our driving motive for seeking to have it must not be because everybody else have them. The elder brother of the Prodigal Son wanted a party only after he saw a party thrown for his brother. The Bible doesn’t tell us that the returning son ever asked the father for a party. It was the father’s discretion to throw a party to celebrate the son’s graduation from the school of life.