A Competitive Spirit?
Updated: Jul 22, 2021
"Did you ever play baseball when you were growing up?" I was asked by a friend as we stood watching a baseball game one warm Sunday evening.
"Yes" I replied, "we played baseball at school and my dad and his brothers would too whenever dad's side of the family got together."
"Are you competitive?" came the next question.
I merely nodded my head with a grin on my face as a bunch of confusing memories surged through my head, What does the Bible really say about this?
As a young child I was homeschooled until I was ready for fifth grade. When I went to private school I got to play games with others. There was a lot of mocking that went on behind the teacher's back and I hated when she wasn't on the playground and so would either fake getting a drink inside or hide in the bathroom but sometimes I stood my ground and fought back. Thinking about it now, I wonder if this is also the same time that as a way of coping I began to make games out of evading those who caused me pain including my dad. I remember the games most vividly because of the daily times of evading my dad so I don't get hurt but as I think about school I can see there was a change in me as well because I don't remember much of 5th grade but I well remember some of the times as a 7th and 8th grader that I became better at the game of evading my pursuers or outrunning them.
Whenever my dad's side of the family got together, dad and his brothers would play baseball. The older children were also allowed to help. In winter it was ice hockey if the ice was fit. If it was raining or not possible to be outside there was usually a card game or something that could include a big number of people. Sometimes a few of the ladies would take part as well.
The biggest thing I remember is the constant bickering and the "lifting of oneself above the other" and always trying to be the best and on top of the pile. It somehow leaves a bad taste in my mouth to remember that.
As a teenager going with the youth group (which you can read more here: https://www.lighthopetruth.com/post/rum-shpringa-youth-gatherings ) we would play volleyball and card games etc. It was just the normal thing to do but for the most part I never really enjoyed it for deep down was unanswered questions: Is this all there is to life, having fun and playing games? What eternal value does this even have? How can people even get fun out of this? How does this even further God's kingdom? What really is the meaning of life? All these questions and more would chew away on my insides as I would help play since there was nothing else to do except sit and watch most times and that was just as bad.
Later on I connected with a couple I learned to trust too much and these are some of the things they said:
~A competitive spirit is of the world.
~Too many people can't lose gracefully. Therefore it is best to not play.
~Games like volleyball,etc can not be played very modestly by ladies. ( The only thing I can remember them saying they play was card/board games.)
It influenced me to see it as they saw it and indirectly it was a relief because I wanted an excuse to not play games. Now and then I got pulled into games which I strongly disliked.
In the Mennonite church I grew up in competitive sports were not allowed, namely such as playing in tournaments or even having teams and traveling to different places in order to play against another team was not allowed( but still did happen occasionally).
Looking back now, I see legalism in a different form. There are so many things that were not allowed in the Mennonite church and in leaving that church and having more freedom then I just found other ways to be legalistic and not playing games was one of them. In the aforementioned conversation I saw the legalism. I also saw a few other ways too which are off topic but nevertheless has caused me quite some internal questioning and searching all because of the question: Are you competitive?
My answer is, Yes, I am.
Am I graceful loser? I try to be.
Does the Bible have anything to say about this in any way?
17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
15And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. Luke 16:15
4Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
5The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh.
6Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind. Ecclesiastes 4:4-6
4But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. Galatians 6:4
3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4
19Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, Galatians 5:19-20
2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
14But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. James 3:14-15
24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:24-25
30A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh,
but envy makes the bones rot. Proverbs 14:30
12Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, Colossians 3:12
46An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. 47But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side 48and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.” Luke 9:46-48
Reading through all these verses has given me an idea on how sports can and should be played. It's just like so many other things where there's a ditch on either side of the road. Some of the things I've gathered are:
- Do all for the glory of God.
- Be kind.
- Don't be envious.
- Be respectful.
- Esteem others higher than yourself, for example, cheer for the winning team even if you lose, cheer for the losing team even if you won and remember they played just as hard as you.
- Keep games for fun and fellowship. When it becomes all about lifting yourself higher than the other team or making a scene when you don't win that's when it starts going wrong. Why?
First, pride is an abomination to God and the human heart is deceitfully wicked. Second, we are told in Scripture that we are to esteem others higher than ourselves. Third, as Christians we are all part of the family of God and just as in a family there are different ages and strengths so it is also in God's family. We are to encourage each other and honor the weaker parts. So even if we may be on the winning side, we may be able to find and compliment those on the losing team for things we notice like a good shot or play or toss or whatever else it may be.
I must say this has been interesting to think upon and research for and read on and I do think I'm not confused in this area anymore. I hope you enjoyed this article, feel free to share and thank you for your interest!
Here are a few interesting articles:
Have a great day! Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings!
On a side note, here's a few comics I found on legalism...