You’re at the park, with the kids, playing soccer. It’s the two of them against you taking turns with the ball close to the goal. They are mud-footed at best with their speed and command of the ball. They’re laughing and smiling and running and kicking and trying. One of them tries to be fancy with their footwork as you approach to defend…
I have always been so competitive. I have had to win at everything, no matter what it was, sports or not. Ask my sisters or brother. Ask my friends. Anyone close enough to me knows how I have been. If I initially lost at something, I figured out some way to disqualify the other person’s win, or to explain away something that proved I actually won. Or, if all else failed, it had to turn into a best of three series.
It even started when I was a baby. I did not even want to talk or walk or write at first, because I was not quite good or fluent enough the way adults were around me. I did not like to misspeak. I did not like to stumble. I did not like to miswrite. I remember vividly these feelings and thoughts, and I remember when I finally reached a brink of understanding that I had to do these things because I was going to need to master them, and I did not want to appear inept. So I was quite late on all three, especially speaking and walking.
Those were the first expressions of what would be the fabric of my competitive, perfectionist nature…a nature that I would eventually learn needed redefined, redirected, refined, and ultimately surrendered to the humble, beautiful ways of Jesus. Little did I know at the time that it would take well over two decades before I even began to understand any of this.
But what a joy and freedom it was one day to finally begin to take enough courage to even consider that I had been prideful, hyper-demanding, controlling, and then consider how that affected my judgment, interpretation of truth and scripture, my conduct, and the overall direction of my life and how I handled that which I was a steward of. I’ll never forget the awkward embarrassment that first time when peering into this within, after having perceived a minute stream of conviction run across the surface of my soul from the Holy Spirit. (That is how seared my conscience was to this at that time.) And when I shared it with someone over the phone, they immediately reacted in joy and praise and thanks to God, bubblefully indicating how they and a couple other friends had been praying for me about this for a while. I ducked my head even lower in embarrassment.
But I was feeling it–that release from the grip of control and pride, which I would discover later had been birthed from and dancing in concert with their parents, unbridled competitiveness and perfectionism. And from that day, a growing appetite for humbleness has led to a change in approach to life, and an inner peace and release from weight and burden I had no idea I had been carrying unnecessarily all my life.
Some of you may be able to relate to this very well, and even may be somewhere on this path based on you being wired similarly to myself in this area. If you feel this is striking a cord, I encourage you to take some private moments with yourself and consider. Do not be afraid to be very honest with yourself. God will be a safe place for you to place everything, even if you are living out certain consequences or life situations based on your behaviors and choices that you cannot get out of at this time, or indefinitely. It is okay, because there will be great grace for you.
But to come clean with yourself is so golden. And then take what you observe to God, and ask His mercy over anything (and anyone) you mishandled. He will forgive you and even take the sore memories laden with guilt and shame and re-robe them with grace and healing, if you will be willing to offer them to Him as such.
And I strongly advise to remember balance and a discerning eye when observing the difference between natural make-up and resultant behavior. For instance, in my case, I had a disposition of competitiveness and perfectionism. And in my imperfect condition of human nature, I was bound to not operate these things healthily. The resulting behavior was pride, control, and extreme versions of self-condemnation and negativity, among other things. What I learned was that if I am competitive and have also a strong desire to be perfect, so-to-speak, I could find the God-given core of this and operate in it in a sanctified, healthy way. So, I discovered how to be competitive without being prideful, controlling, or domineering. I discovered how to maintain high standards of excellence in the way I perform things without being an unhealthy perfectionist (one could say I am a recovering perfectionist).
Granted, these things are lifelong journeys and processes (I really try to avoid using the word ‘process’ when I write and speak), and I do not speak this message with an air of having mastered or performed these things well or perfectly. But at least I am aware, and I see how to do this, and I have a great experience of true freedom and peace within as a result. A freedom and peace that only Christ and His way can provide.
So…there you are, facing that little one, dancing around that ball as if a star player, and you are close enough to kick the ball away from them. Then you remember how God has been tugging on your heart…
Go ahead. Let that beautiful little mighty-might blaze a slow shot on goal against you. And all not before using his or her amazing footwork and some unfair hand-checking to weave past you.
Go ahead. Let your heart melt with every kick. With every laugh. With every moment. Your heart will rise, and land, completely open, right in each of their arms.
Give in. Don’t miss this opportunity. You never know how long you will have it, or when it will come again.
Go ahead. Let them win. For in this loss of yours, you will have tasted the sweetest of victories one could ever imagine and experience.