The Spirit of Competition. Many are scared of it, many have been hurt by it; and yet on the other hand many don’t see any problem with it, in fact they believe teaching competition is a good thing.
How do we handle this as parents? Are we watching for the spirit of competitiveness among sibling relationships? Is competitiveness between siblings modeled in the bible?
In Luke 15, we come to the story of the prodigal son. In it there is a father who has two sons. Many times when reading this parable, we focus on the rebellious son and the reconciliation, forgiveness and mercy given to him by the father upon his return. But I see another story as well. A story of two brothers. After the younger brother took his inheritance and squandered it, he returned home not expecting forgiveness, but maybe some compassion from his father to let him be a servant. He himself saw he was undeserving of grace. Upon returning his father was so joyful he had a celebration. This was his brother’s reaction: “But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!” Luke 15:28-30
At the heart of the older brothers reaction is a focus on justice, fairness all stemming from a heart that is comparing. He is clearly not concerned for his brother’s heart condition. He instead is focused on outward things. In comparing his works to his brother’s ungrateful heart, he is upset and confused by his fathers reaction. How did the father in scripture respond to his eldest sons reaction?
“And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.” Luke 15:31-32
I believe this is one of the many scriptural models for us as parents in dealing with the spirit of competitiveness. We need to be teaching about the heart. Teaching them about spiritual condition of the heart and how actions are a reflection of heart. Then hopefully, if we as parents experience going through a situation of having a “prodigal child” even while still living in our home and on a smaller scale, hopefully our children having been trained in caring more for the heart of their siblings will see the deeper issues and not be so tempted to focus on self, justice, fairness, and outward reward from a competitive spirit.
I have personally experienced and witnessed the negative of effects of a competitive nature and its effects on hearts and attitudes. Competitiveness can destroy friendships, destroy marriages, families and it can destroy sibling relationships.
I tried hard as a young adult to justify the good aspects of having a competitive nature such as how it drives someone to strive for more, for better. How it can motivate you to do better. There is a problem though; a competitive heart divides a team.
A divided team is never as effective as it’s potential. Not only that, but it can be destructive. It can cause disloyalty, breed selfishness, and ultimately kill relationships.
The desire to be better than someone else, or even the “best” is at the core of competitiveness. Pride and or low self-image greatly impact and affect a competitive spirit within any individual. We as mothers and wives need to be truly honest and introspective into the heart of our home.
Is there a spirit competitiveness in your family, among your children, or in your marriage?
Competitiveness doesn’t exists without some sort of comparison. When people think of competitiveness, the first thing they often think of is some sort of games, soccer, basketball, football, any sport. The competition comes because they are keeping track of a score, they are comparing one teams skills to another. Comparison truly is at the heart of a competitive nature.
Whether competition is acceptable in sports or work is not up for debate here. What I am focusing on is a competitive atmosphere between siblings in the home. As parents we need to be aware of the heart attitudes within our children. We need to be looking for those things that need correcting and training in righteousness within our children’s hearts and our own. If we spend a ton of time glorifying sports or other activities that encourage the spirit of competition, then we should expect that the spirit is being breed within the hearts of our impressionable children. So as a parent, we need to limit or be wise to how much time we focus or value these kinds of activities. I am not saying sports activities are bad per say. We have put our kids in sports at one time or another, and we are probably going to be doing it again in the future.
My point though, is that if you do choose to engage in such activities, be aware of the attitudes growing within your child’s heart. Use this as a learning opportunity. When our children grow, many aspects of life will challenge them to have a competitive or comparing heart. It doesn’t mean we just run away from all activities that challenge our hearts, but we do need to prayerfully consider if our child is at a place to succeed in mastering the negative aspects of this heart attitude. Are they successfully relying on self-control and learning how to battle this sin or are they just getting a whole lot of practice and developing a habit of falling to this specific sin?
We as parents need to ask God’s wisdom and discernment considering each individual child. Every child is different. Take a purposeful effort to know the deep heart attitudes in each of your children. Prayerfully consider each activity, and carefully examine what good attributes your child will gain before just signing them up.
The Competitive Nature within families can be distructive. Join me in a couple of days when we address competitiveness within sibling relationships in regards to competitiveness.
Let’s teach by setting a good example and try our best to be on guard for this ugly spirit in our own hearts and be on the watch for a competitive spirit in our childrens hearts. It is there, it is one way selfishness is rooted deep within our sinful nature.