Confession: We use the “who can do it fastest” trick on our boys when we’re especially desperate for them to listen to us, because it’s hard wired into the male psyche to want to be first at everything. This is a proven fact.
“Guuu-uuys, I wonder who can be first to get their jaaaa-mmies on?!?”
Three elephants are suddenly thundering up the stairs, crashing into their rooms with socks and underwear flying in a blur of testosterone. Thirty seconds later, one of them is taunting, “I am the win-ner and you are the LOS-ERS,” followed by maniacal laughter.
Crying ensues, followed by an angry shout: “IT’S NOT A COMPETITION!!!”
It’s not a competition.
This is the white flag of surrender when you know you’re beaten. It’s a desperate plea for someone to change the rules, when you intuitively know the game is rigged and someone else will always win. We say this because we know that it actually is a competition, and we’ve lost.
Think of a time when you’ve felt less than. When you weren’t enough and didn’t measure up. What if we could stop and simply say, it’s not a competition? What if we actually said this at work, or at the gym, or ECFE, or any time a group of kids does artwork with their parents looking on, while comparing kids engaging in friendly banter?
It’s not a competition.
The thing is, we’d by lying, because it is a competition.
It’s a competition because you and I keep making it one.
I don’t know how to stop. One of my friends says that we all live our lives in a line, where we’re always looking ahead and feeling jealous of those who are in front of us, then looking behind and feeling superior over those who are behind us. And we like it that way, as long as we’re moving up. How else would we know if we’re enough?
I want out of the line. Someone needs to call a timeout, and make us all go back to our seats so we can play a different game.
Our friends Kyle and Megan are ninjas who make sure it’s not a competition. This is especially noteworthy because they’d win at most competitions. Kyle is a pastor whom everybody loves, and is the funniest person alive (sorry, Joel). Megan creates breathtaking art using mixed media, and she can write, and she balances one hell of a checkbook (it’s not a competition, it’s not a competition, it’s not a competition). Plus, their kids are freakishly talented and ridiculously good looking.
But when we’re with them, they fawn over us as though they’ve won some sort of prize just by being with us, even though one of us is screaming at the boys to GO BACK TO BED almost the entire night, and the other one has red-wine teeth, and we both start yawning at 9pm on a Friday night.
Their gift to us is that they can be as great as they are, but it doesn’t take anything away from how great we are. Their gifts don’t minimize our gifts. And our gifts don’t minimize theirs. They have the ability to say, “We’re great! And you’re great! And we’re even better together!”
It’s not a competition. Let’s wave the white flag of surrender, because we know we’re beaten. Let’s change the rules, let’s admit the game is rigged and everybody loses. Let’s say this because we know that it actually is a competition, and we’re not playing anymore.
The competition stops when I own my gifts and my limits, and when your gifts stop being translated as my deficits. It’s time for the white flag. It’s time to step out of the line.
It’s not a competition. Make this your breath prayer every time you feel like what you bring is less than, not enough, or that you didn’t measure up.
It’s only a competition if you choose to stay in the line.
As I walk out of the line, my wife’s wise words echo in my ears, softly falling on my shoulders like the day’s first sun:
I am good
I am called
Yes. Yes. Yes.