Competition – Healthy or Harmful?

runMost of us are probably wondering the same thing… where does the idea of competition come from? and is it healthy for our children?

Competition is definitely not a contemporary idea. In fact, the downplay of competition in schools across America is rising. Many educators believe that competition is harmful and damaging to the young psyche. Let’s take a look at history…

As long as can be remembered competition has been a part of our society and our world. True competition in the historical sense is partnering with our competitors and pursuing excellence all while realizing that the experience gained in the pursuit is worth more than the outcome. This is where things get derailed. The importance of the “pursuit of excellence” is the key to competition. Not the base desire to just win. Take for example the Olympic Creed, “The most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the fight; the essential thing is not to have won, but to have fought well.”

Taking it back even further into history, the Word of God instructs us to “run the race”, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:” II Tim. 4:7, and Heb. 12:1 “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” The idea here is not to win, but to run with patience… to acquire the lessons and experience and goals that the race brings with it.

Even the Latin roots of the word competition show us this – petere means to strive and the prefix com  means with. Thus denoting the idea that competition is to strive along side WITH not against! This is the pure form of competition, and thus one that is healthy and contributes to growth in our children. However, after the fall of man sin corrupted everything and thus competition became corrupted and degraded to the singular goal of winning joined by arrogance and disrespect.

The corrupted version of competition is the reason why so many people have shied away from incorporating competition at all. However, the pure form of striving together with someone toward a goal – all while pursuing excellence is meaningful and definitely motivating. Remove competition completely and students stagnate… everyone wins a blue ribbon for art – why try harder? Everyone gets a reward for the foot race – why give my best?

Keeping competition pure – is key to using it as a healthy motivator. Philippians 1:27, “that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel.”  This verse in Philippians is talking about staying true to the Lord, however the idea of striving together for a common goal is fundamental. Notice that the verse talks of one spirit and one mind – again this idea of healthy competition doesn’t accept degrading one another – nor being lifted up in pride but having the same mindset – and the same GOAL. True competition will enable us grow and learn from the journey!

I Cor. 14:12 “seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church”

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