com·pe·ti·tion – noun \,käm-pə-‘ti-shən\
: the act or process of trying to get or win something (such as a prize or a higher level of success) that someone else is also trying to get or win : the act or process of competing
: actions that are done by people, companies, etc., that are competing against each other
I think it’s safe to say that I’ve always been a competitive person. There’s just something in my blood that drives me to, well, want to win.
I was never active in team sports. I did, however, participate in dance, gymnastics, tennis lessons and–nerd alert!–Academic Decathlon and Spell bowl teams among others. Even at church youth group gatherings, I would heave the basketball while panting across the court, trying to hold my own in games of Knockout basketball elimination.
Don’t let me give you the impression that any of this was done with grace, though. I’m sure if smart phones had existed back then I’d have years of cringe-worthy footage.
I realize now that I don’t long just for winning but even seeming like I should have won. Coming in second place with an audience of advocates believing I should’ve come in first makes for an intoxicating win in my book, too. Consider a situation that happened ten or so years ago, something I have been reticent to blog about because of the whole throwing-myself-under-the-bus-thing. It’s just not that fun.
I won’t tell you all the details because they offer the seductive danger of justifying my reaction. None of us needs that. Suffice it to say I was working with a well-loved celebrity in the gospel music world, and I’d had enough of this dude after my weekend stint as his opening act. Poor guy, he may have just had one bad night, but because of that one night, I had two bad years. It was like ammo for me.
I could tell the story of this highly successful person and his behavior that one weekend with eye rolling and other histrionic expressions all in the name of, get this, making myself look better. I know somewhere down deep I felt if I could just point out his flaws then I could ultimately point out the general flawed system of the entire music industry in which I was working. By doing that, I think I could then explain that any hiccups in my own rise to status or success were completely the fault of the system, not my own.
Yes, it’s true. This entitled competitive spirit was squandering many joys and blessings already in my backyard.
It might be easy to think that the struggle has faded as my seasons of life have changed. I’m still releasing albums and touring, but things are more secure and developed. My projects are more profitable now, and the credits to my career look better on paper. My life also is filled with many, many things outside of work and the pursuit of “success.”
This spirit of competitiveness seeps into other areas, though. For instance, as a home schooling mother, it’s especially tempting to compare my methods to others. Common questions on our group forums include: “What did you do today?” or “What curriculum are you using?” or “At what reading levels are your children?” Every home educator supplements or enriches her curriculum with an influx of outside information and knowledge. It’s completely overwhelming. If I’m not leading the pack, I at least want to appear to be.
Scripture tells us: “The last will be first and the first will be last.” Someone with a competitive spirit will respond, “Cool! So at least I get to be first somewhere in there.”
Clearly, this is an area that I must cover in prayer often. I must look for the ways that surrender is needed. I have to accept that God uses whom He wants, how He wants, and when He wants. It is not my job to lead the pack, but His. At least I’m moving past denial. Prayers needed.
WORD COUNT: 614
Sarah Scharborough McLaughlin is a worship leader, singer/songwriter, and blogger. She has released 4 albums including her most recent album, Sit with Me, available for download on iTunes. She has also released a live concert DVD and has been the voice of commercial radio and television jingles ranging from Ford, Dodge, and New Balance to Cedar Point Theme Park and the Indiana Pacers. Sarah strives to sing the praises of real life and lament the struggles as well. She half-jokingly says that her vocation is sitting around the table crying with people. Sharing stories (of all kinds) is at the forefront of what she does. She is a worship leader at Grace Church in Noblesville, Ind., and enjoys hanging with her family and friends, traveling, cooking, turbo-kick & zumba, making art out of junk, and making junk out of art. She is married to Jeff McLaughlin, who also is her drummer, and they have three children.