Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Competition and Kindness

There is a stark contrast between competition and kindness, but the Bible calls us to a completely different definition of competition that makes it compatible with kindness.
 The competitive spirit is alive and well in our culture. It pops up in some of the most unexpected places and can be shocking to those who do not possess it. It can be damaging and confusing when you are caught off guard  by it.  This kind of competition, sadly, is prevalent even in the church. We see it pop up regarding parenting ( home school vs. private or public school, cloth diapers vs. disposables, breast feeding vs. bottle feeding, parenting styles etc.), ministry, people with the same skill sets competing for recognition, and the list goes on. Some people are so driven by a competitive spirit that they naturally make everything a competition, and they are impossible to have a relationship with because they lack compassion. A competitive spirit is divisive, unloving, self-seeking, and confusing to those who truly do not wish to compete.
Is competition always wrong?
 Do we have to make a choice between competition OR kindness?
Can there be both?

The Bible says
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5
A word study can reveal some interesting facts. Consider the following words and their meanings:
1.       Having a strong desire to compete or succeed
2.       Involving or determined by rivalry: competitive sports
3. Relating to or characterized by an urge to compete: a competitive personality
4. Competitive activity is one in which companies or teams are competing against each other
I don't know about you, but the words “against each other” really popped out as strong language to me, because there is an underlying and sometimes overt sense of disengagement with other people when there is a high level of competitiveness. Winning or receiving accolades is more important than kindness and compassion. Building someone else up or encouraging them is threatening to a competitive spirit, unless someone else isn't skilled in the same area, or isn't as accomplished, or experienced.
“If you're competitive, you want to be the best. No one likes to lose, but if you are a competitive person, it will be especially disappointing to see someone else win. People who are competitive like to compete — to find out who knows the most, runs the fastest, can eat the most hot dogs, and so on. Some people are competitive about everything. You'll know them by their constant comparing themselves to others and trying to find out what others have and do — in order to be sure they are still "ahead." Competitive can describe any contest, like a competitive sandcastle-building event.”
Also listed in this article as a part of what defines a competitive person:
“Showing a fighting disposition”
As I continued my search, the words “power hungry” appeared in relation to the competitive drive, and this is what one definition of power hungry said: 

power hunger - a drive to acquire power
status seeking
ambitiousness, ambition- a strong drive for success
The contrast between the word competitive and the word kindness is significant.
1.    The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.
kindliness, kindheartedness, warm-heartedness, affection, warmth, gentleness, concern, care
benevolence, boon, courtesy, grace, indulgence, favor mercy, service, turn
cold-heartedness, hard-heartedness, inhumanity, inhumanness, mercilessness, pitilessness
1. The quality or state of being kind.
2. An instance of kind behavior: Your kindnesses won't be forgotten.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The Biblical description of competition looks very different than our cultural view, and it's also in great contrast to our natural inclinations towards competition.
I Corinthians 9: 24-27 says:  
“24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control,[b] lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
Romans 12:10 says
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor
God tells us to compete with one another, but not in the sense that the world, or our own flesh would naturally do. “Outdo one another in showing HONOR!” God calls us to compete for each other. We can’t do that if we are competing against each other.
Philippians 2:3-4
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Galations 5:16-26
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy,[d] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
John 3:16 “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
I love what Jack Wellman says about this.
 Greater Love Has No Man
John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
“We could paraphrase this verse to read, No one has a greater love than that which he or she would willingly die for their friend.This reminds me of the many veterans who are serving and who have ever served their countries for their nation’s freedom.  Many did give their lives to defend what we often take for granted.  I have heard true stories of veterans who threw themselves on hand grenades to save their fellow soldiers lives but didn‘t live to tell about it.  Those whom they saved retell this most selfless act.  That kind of love reflects the agape love of God.   The agape love is the greatest love that there is and it is the type of love that gives a person over to sacrificing their own life to save another.  This love was most abundantly displayed on the cross by Jesus Christ.  He gave His life as a ransom for the many (Mark 10:45, 1 Tim 2:6).” Jack Wellman
I came across an excellent article on leadership, and pulled out a short excerpt to share. It sounds like “servant leadership” which is what Jesus modeled in the New Testament.
Serving Others through Empowerment
“The above mentioned traits have one thing at their center: people. And it’s this focus on people that seems to motivate many of the most successful leaders, from athletic coaches to business entrepreneurs. Often possessing an innate ability to see in others what those people may not see in themselves, the true leader cultivates the best in people and genuinely wants to see them succeed.
Also viewed as a mentor, the true leader delivers empowerment by providing resources, enabling others to realize options and possibilities they hadn’t thought of through exposure to external or internal education and development. Within this scenario, the leader is motivated to liberate subordinates rather than control them, thereby generating a more collaborative environment that leads to innovation, competitive edge and overall success.
Though this approach is impractical for military or law enforcement, where following the orders of an authoritarian leader is necessary due to the often confidential nature of information, on the whole, true leaders in the civilian world strive to help others learn, grow and develop by freeing them from the limitations that hold them back. In doing so, these individuals inspire a natural state of loyalty that, as seen in the 100 Best Companies to Work For cited above, leads to unquestionable success.” Article: What Motivates True Leaders?
 *Bold fonts and italics, mine*
Leadership tends to draw strong, competitive, personalities, and some are so driven that they overpower and squash those around them who simply enjoy the activities they are involved in, enjoy people and desire to serve. Rather than build others up, they see them as a threat to be reckoned with.
Christ like leadership qualities look very different than competitive controlling qualities.
Christ like Leadership Qualities
Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28
 Humility ( John 13:1-7, Colossians 3:12, Proverbs 22:4,  I Peter 3:8, Philippians 2:3,  Ephesians 4:2, Matthew 20:28, Luke 22:6)
Confidence (Philippians 4:13, II Timothy 1:7, Hebrews 10:35-36)
A good listener who will consider other views, and respect them, rather than insisting that everyone else adopt his/her view. (Proverbs 12:15, Proverbs 11:14, Proverbs 24:6)
 Acts as a guide or a coach, as opposed to those who dictate (John 13:1-7, Philippians 2:3, Luke 6:31, Psalm 78:72)
 Flexible, yet able to be firm when necessary (Galations 1:10, I Thessalonians 2:4, Proverbs 16:12, Psalm 78:72, )
Provides credit for success to others rather than only accepting it for themselves (Luke 6:31, Matthew 20:26, John 3:30) 
 Enlightens people through development and education, whether based on the leader’s personal experience or outside resources (John 13:1-7, Proverbs 11:14)
 Able to handle conflict diplomatically, kindly, and firmly (Galations 5:22-23)
Seeks to elevate others, rather than self (Mark 10:42-45, I Peter 5:3,  Philippians 2:3-8)
 Team mentality ( 1 Peter 5:1-14)
 Integrity (Acts 20:18, Acts 20:31)

So yes, you can have both kindness and competition, but it it doesn’t look the same as the competition we see in our culture. God’s ways are always higher than mans’ ways, and when we apply Proverbs 3:5-6 by trusting in Him with all of our hearts, rather than trusting our own understanding, and acknowledging Him in everything, He will be faithful to direct our paths.

*all bold and italics in the verses included in this post, are mine*


  1. Yes, it seems it is everywhere. I sense a sort of jealousy and envy even in the blog world at times in the way bloggers handle others etc. Omission and commission. Popularity contests of the sort and it ought not be.

    I so understand what you have written, as my husband often reminds: Even the Bible says, 'Jealousy and envy, who can stand against it?'

    Nice post Jana!

    1. Hi Amelia!

      It's always so good to hear from you! And Exactly! Your husband pointed out an important biblical truth. Jealousy and envy are so destructive. It really does break my heart that there is so much competition rather than unity, support, building up, and working together.....and you are right. It's everywhere. If we all just competed in honoring it would be amazing how powerfully God could use us as we combined the talents He has given us, and loved one another deeply as God tells us to do in His Word. I have seen it amongst bloggers, too. :(
      Blessings to you, Amelia, and thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. May I also add that Jesus' strength was His humility.

    Hope you are having a lovely day and that the insecure ones aren't causing you grief dear one.

    I hear your heart. I hear your heart.


    1. Thank you so much, Amelia! This world is full of grief, and I would be dishonest if I didn't say it has touched my life many times, but it's such a blessing to know that God is sovereign over everything and He will use the difficulties in this world to sanctify us. And YES! The reminder of Jesus humility being his strength is so good. Love, LOVE, love!!!! <3