We've been teaching the boys in our church about competition and good sportsmanship. They all love sports and play enthusiastically whenever they get a chance. Their desire to win, however, can sometimes overshadow the importance of kindness. Good sportsmanship seems to be out of fashion these days and so there are not many examples of excellent athletes who demonstrate it to point to. Asked to define what good sportsmanship is, many people can only give a vague answer.
Good sportsmanship isn't about wanting to lose or not keeping score. That's silly. Good sportsmanship is fundamentally about one thing – who you are really competing against (yourself). What trips people up is the idea that in order to be somebody they have to be better than others. The problem with that is that there will always be someone better than you. Even Olympic gold medalists, who sometimes win only by hundredths of a second, can often be defeated on another day. It isn't about being better than others, it's about being the most you can be.
When competing against others, we need to see them as helpers. They help us by challenging us to improve. In a real sense, they are serving us and we are serving them. If they win, we can be happy that we played a part in their growth. If we win, we can rejoice in our improvement. Competition can be good if it's used as a way to improve ourselves rather than to prove ourselves to others. Improve – good, prove – bad.
We're all different, wonderful, and unique. Constantly comparing ourselves to others is a waste of time and energy, and more importantly, it's destructive to our relationships. If I have a need to compare myself to you, I'll either be insecure because you're better than me in some way, or haughty because I am better than you in another way. This is a ridiculous game we need not play. Let us rest in our uniqueness and enjoy each other's differences.