When Competition Costs Relationship
by Kara Isaac
A few days ago, I got home to discover my husband and five-year-old sitting on the couch having a conversation. The latter with a face like thunder. The problem? They had been having a “fun” game of soccer together and his father had dared to score a goal against him. Later that night, in front of a large number of dinner guests, he was on the floor, wailing because he wanted to write “dinosaur” in a notebook he’d been given for his birthday and hadn’t formed the “R” to his own perfectionist standards. All of our assurances that it was a perfectly fine “R” and that learning to write took both time and practice were met with withering looks and more tears.
So, in the space of 12 hours, it hit home that we have somehow given birth to the world’s most competitive child. The higher-than-average competitive streak that both my husband and I possess had combined to go exponential in this small body with a mind that refused to listen to reason.
It wasn’t a complete shock. There had been some warning signs over the last few months. When he found out I’d once run a half-marathon, he grilled me on whether I’d won (no), whether I’d thought I might win (not with this earthly body), and what was the point of even doing it if there was no chance of me winning (the explanation of personal challenge was deemed unacceptable)? There were the tears when someone else did something better or faster than he did and to get something right the first time, every time.
We’ve been grappling with how to explain to a five-year-old that doing your best doesn’t always translate into being the best. How friendships suffer when you are the person who always has to win. That part of being a good friend is being gracious when someone else wins or does something better than you. Even more outrageously—being genuinely happy for them! How Jesus wants us to love people over success.
And I’ve found myself challenged. Even though my own competitive streak doesn’t have me flailing on the floor in front of a houseful of people when I don’t achieve something to my own self-imposed standard, how often have I put my own pursuit of success over my relationships? How many times have I not put effort into a friendship because I’ve been blinkered in the pursuit of whatever the current goal is in front of me? When have I excused myself from helping someone else because my to-do list has taken priority over my to-love list? When have I been outwardly congratulatory but inwardly disgruntled when someone else has gotten something that I really wanted? How often is the main difference between my son and I that I keep my real response beneath the surface and put socially acceptable explanations around avoiding things that get in the way of what I want to achieve?
Maybe God has given me this wonderful, funny, success-oriented child because I still have just as much to learn about choosing to-love over to-win as he does.
Kara Isaac is a novelist who lives in Wellington, New Zealand. When she’s not working her day job as a public servant, chasing around a ninja preschooler and his feisty toddler sister, she spends her time writing horribly bad first drafts and wishing you could get Double Stuf Oreos in New Zealand. She loves to connect on her website (www.karaisaac.com/about/), on Facebook at Kara Isaac – Author and Twitter @KaraIsaac
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