I am an athlete – a natural-born leader and competitor. When I played basketball, I would size up my competition, know their weaknesses, and exploit them as much as I could. I didn’t want to show any mercy and if I could beat a team to the ground, then that’s what I would do. I never wanted anyone to say that they worked harder than me. I wanted to be the best. I wanted to win. I wanted to intimidate my competition; hence, the picture.
In sports, there is a clear winner and loser. At the end of a game, you always know which team or competitor was the best. In life, things are not that cut-and-dry. Given my personality, it can be very difficult for me to turn off my competitive nature. But in the game of life, especially motherhood, no one wins when we compete with each other.
I had been struggling with that good, old-fashioned ‘less-than-perfect’ feeling that creeps up much too often. Whether or not this woman knew it, I was trying to compete with her and I was losing. She had just completed yet another DIY project, her house was immaculate, she was always the first to volunteer to make a wonderful meal for someone, her kids always seemed to be well-behaved, and she was darn-near a size two. Meanwhile, I am the least crafty woman I know, my house is clean but lived-in, I will send someone a gift card to a restaurant rather than cook, my kids are often well-behaved yet they are still completely unpredictable, and I can’t even find size two in the rear-view mirror.
To be honest, I was beyond frustrated. I don’t know why I felt like I had to compete with her, I just did. It got to the point that the sight of her or the mention of her name began to irritate me. At one point, I said to my husband something along the lines of, “She just thinks she’s so perfect. Gag me.” A few days after I said that, a mutual friend had called and asked me to pray for this woman. As it turned out, she was struggling with something very real and difficult – something I can’t imagine going through. I don’t believe this was a coincidence. God knew my heart and my attitude needed to change and he knew that praying for this woman – that I insisted on competing with – was the way to do that.
By praying for her I realized several things. First of all, competing was useless. I was comparing apples and oranges. Our lives and situations were not even close to the same. It wasn’t a level playing field, but it never is no matter who we may be competing with. This is real life, and real life is much more unpredictable and messy than a basketball game.
Secondly, what was I trying to accomplish? Did I want to make myself feel better? Did I want to make her feel badly? Like I said, odds are she had and still has no clue that I felt this way. Regardless of what my goal was, I suddenly realized that either outcome was flawed. There will always be women out there that I can make feel pretty bad about themselves. Likewise, there are tons of women who can make me feel just as badly. Why in the world would I want to make someone feel horrible? Didn’t this whole thing start because I was feeling lousy about myself?
Finally, it occurred to me that God has equipped me to deal with my own life. I will never be perfect, because if I were it would take away my reliance on God. All that time, I had been trying to fit myself into this mold that didn’t match my life – it matched her life. I am never going to make a bunch of DIY projects around my house, that’s just not what I’m into. I am also not likely to make a bunch of meals for people, it doesn’t mean that I am not helping them out just because I go the gift card route (although, I have to watch that I am giving for the right reason and not just for the attention). Also, God has called me to be the mother to my kids for a reason. I am the one who is most well-equipped to raise them, which is why they are mine. God will give me the strength I need to handle my life, not someone else’s life.
So from now on, I’m done competing. I’ve decided that the ball player must become the cheerleader. My new goal is to encourage and respect other women at all times, rather than try to beat them at the game of life. If you accomplish something, I need to be right there cheering you on and congratulating you, even if I could never do what you did. Do I need to be best friends with every woman I meet? No. But I am called to lift others up rather than tear them down. By practicing this, I have felt more joy in my friendships and more peace with myself than I ever expected. I might never get another MVP award, but I’m shooting for Best Sportsmanship these days.
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