It is hard for us to love each other. Our relationships are too charged with competition, jealousy and violence. Win! Be the best at something! Show others you are more talented and classier than they are! Leave the competition behind! Strut your stuff! Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing! Show me a good loser and I will show you a loser. These phrases are not merely cheerleaders’ rhetoric meant to inspire us to do better things, they are viruses infecting our culture and psyches. From infancy onwards we are infected with the drive to out-do, to out-achieve and to out-hustle each other. From this comes competition, violence and jealousy. We structure our lives around competition and most of our meaning comes from achieving. When we achieve, win, when we are better than others at something, our lives seem fuller. Our self-images inflate and we feel confident and worthwhile. Conversely, when we cannot stand out, when we are just another face in the crowd we struggle to maintain a healthy self-image.
In either case, we struggle continually with jealousy and dissatisfaction. We envy and secretly hate the talented, the beautiful, the powerful, the rich, the achievers, the famous, the winners. Moreover, we make ourselves miserable by constantly comparing our own lack of talent, beauty and achievement with their successes. We were infected with this disease, unhealthy competitiveness, when we were still very young. From the time we started school, and even before, everything around us (and many things within us) pushed us to achieve, to set ourselves apart from others. So we pushed ourselves to stand out, to be at the top of the class, to be the best athlete, the best dressed, the best looking, the most musically talented, the most popular, the most experienced, the most travelled, the one who knew the most about cars, or movies, or history, or sex, or the stars or whatever. At all costs though the drive was to find something at which we could beat others. At all costs the idea was to somehow set ourselves apart and above. That idea is deeply rooted in us. Because of it, our relationships are too-charged with violence, competition and jealousy. How can we love each other and accept each person in respect and equality when we must first out-achieve each other?
How can we love each other when every achievement is cause for jealousy and resentment? How can we love each other when an overly competitive spirit makes us unable to see with the heart and the mind of Christ? To love is to be vulnerable. To love is to see the other as equal. To love is to let others’ talents and achievements enhance our lives. But we are generally incapable of these things. We are too infected with competition to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to see others as equals and to not let the achievements and talents of others threaten us. Because of this we develop our talents, not to share our gifts and enhance others’ lives, but to measure ourselves, to strut our wares, to stand out. Likewise, because of this, we divide people into two groups, winners and losers, achievers and failures. We admire and hate the former and despise the latter. Because of this we also are constantly sizing each other up, rating each others’ bodies, hair, intelligence, clothing, talents and achievements. As we rate, we become unhealthily depressed when others outscore us and unhealthily inflated when we appear superior to them.
The enigma separating us from each other becomes ever more difficult to penetrate as we become more and more obsessed with ourselves and our need to be special, to sit above. We live in jealousy, competition and violence. The other is perennially perceived as a threat. We need to let the mind and heart of Christ exorcise this demon from our lives. In the mind and heart of Christ we will perceive ways of relating beyond competition, jealousy and violence. In the mind and heart of Christ there is no need to stand out and be special. There the other’s special talents are not seen as a threat, but as something that enhances all of life, our life included. What is the mind and heart of Christ? It is the acceptance of the fact that everyone is special and therefore all are equal. Nobody sits above the rest and nobody has a right to feel that he or she should sit above the rest. This is true for nations as well as for individuals. If individuals accepted this there would be much less jealousy, competition and violence among us. If nations accepted it, our world would not be poised on the brink of economic and nuclear destruction. Show me a good loser and I will show you a loser! Jesus was a good loser. In his underachieving we all achieved salvation. In his mind and heart lie the seeds that can bind us into one heart beyond jealousy, competition and violence.