Life is not a zero-sum game. In other words, if you get something, it doesn’t mean there’s less good stuff in the world left for me. But let’s be honest, there are competitions that go on in the lives of people every day all the way from who gets the promotion to the C-suite down to who gets the biggest piece of chicken at dinner.
A healthy sense of competition is good for athletes and salespeople. But when it’s more than a healthy competitive spirit or when it flows over into areas where it doesn’t belong, like relationships, it causes problems.
It’s natural for a sense of competition to arise when someone else gets the raise or promotion that you thought you were entitled to or when a competitor gets the account, or when a friend gets the new car you’ve been saving for. The level of angst you feel over those kinds of situations is rooted in feelings of unfairness that you’ve experienced throughout your life.
Trying to explain how it feels to have the deck stacked against you from your earliest recollection is like trying to explain to a man how it feels to give birth. The man can be an obstetrician with 30 years experience in delivering babies, but he’s never going to know how it feels to carry and birth another human.
Some people grew up feeling (and being made to feel) less than others, as though they’re not enough. Many had the sense that they had to fight for the scraps left over by people who were better than they are. For some, those feelings led to anger, for others, depression, for others a burning desire to earn their way to recognition and acceptance.
When we feel that we’ve been wronged in some way, it’s a normal human emotion to want to right the wrong, to have justice. For people who grew up feeling loved and accepted, the desire for justice is proportionate to the perceived wrong. But when people who have felt as though others look down on them experience injustice, the emotion that inevitably follows is disproportionate to the injustice.
Overreactions are an indicator of a culmination of a lifetime (or of generations) of being teated unfairly.
We must not excuse bad behavior. But when looking at behavior that appears to be out of proportion to the original injustice, the way to find the silver lining is to look beyond the behavior to the underlying injustices and try to understand.
More importantly, we’ll all be better as individuals and as a community when we embrace the truth that each of us was created by God, and that we were perfectly matched to His good plan for our lives. When we look at our lives through the lense of God’s plans, there is no competition. There’s a personalized package marked “success” for each of us, and it’s incumbent upon each of us to find and fulfill our unique life assignment. One of us living our purpose and enjoying the authentic success that accompanies it does not diminish the ability of anyone else to find and fulfill and enjoy their life assignment and real success.
Striving to have what others have will never lead us to the life we were born to live. The only thing that will do that is to embrace who we are, Whose we are, to recognize the skills, talents, abilities, character traits, values, beliefs, and perspectives that have been inextricably woven into who we are, and to use all those things to do good in the world.
That is the crux of the competition—it’s a race to see who can actualize to the fullest, be the best person he or she can be, and thereby do our unique brand of goodness in the world. For that, there is endless grace, wisdom, and provision.
Rhonda Sciortino, author of 30 Days To Happiness (featured on Ellen DeGeneres' show and included in her Kind Box), used the coping skills acquired throughout a chaotic and abusive childhood to create personal and professional success. Through her speaking, writing, podcast, media appearances, and videos she shares how others can use the obstacles in their lives as stepping stones to a their real success