As I strolled through the room of tables, which were all decorated and ready for our ladies’ Christmas event that evening, I heard someone say, “It’s not a competition.”
Of course we were all aware that no one was scoring or ranking the tables, but I knew what she meant. Nobody wants the be the table that everyone walks past, thinking silently, “That one isn’t very pretty,” or “… isn’t very original,” or “…didn’t require a lot of creativity.”
Probably nobody would say any of those things, but if you see everybody walking past your table to ‘ooh and aaah’ over another table, it does give rise to little pangs of jealousy–even if you’re the one saying, “It’s not a competition.”
Competitive edges are sharp. You get scraped and cut. Your cuts can get infected and cause extreme tenderness. You have to heal up before you’re ready to contribute again.
Even at Church, competitive edges create a lot of wounds, and not just during table decorating season. Everybody wants to be the one who’s admired or appreciated; and no one wants to be the one who is subtly passed over.
This year, as I decorated my table, I discovered the secret of protecting yourself against the sharpness of the ‘competitive edge’. Want to hear my secret? I partnered up with a friend.
My friend Sarah is incredibly classy. She’s got good taste and a good eye for style. But she’s also very flexible and sweet! When she opened her suitcase full of table decorating supplies, the first thing she said was, “Ok, so I’m not emotionally attached to any of these things…”
What a beautiful thing to say. In essence, she was telling me that I mattered more than her decorations. And I felt the same way about her! Both of us brought things that were used, and we each packed away things that didn’t work. We were careful to defer to each other, and neither of us sat back while the other worked. We cheerfully tackled the project and worked together on it.
That evening, when a lady commented on how pretty it looked, I said, “Oh, I didn’t really do much. It was all Sarah.” The lady laughed and said, “Well, Sarah just said the same thing about you!”
That’s the fruit of collaboration. We each brought our gifts and supplies ‘to the table’, and surely the end result was prettier than if either of us had worked alone. Yet because of that, neither of us wanted to take full credit!
And isn’t that like the Body of Christ?
We all know that when we serve Jesus, ‘It isn’t a competition.’ But sometimes it feels that way, doesn’t it? But when remove rivalry and conceit from our hearts, and simply bring our gifts to the table, laying aside preferences, we accomplish more than we ever could individually. In the end, no one can take full credit. And no one wants to!
Are you getting scraped or cut by any ‘competitive edges’ this Christmas? Do you have old wounds that need healing? Here’s how to bandage up your hurt, and protect yourself from new cuts: invite someone to work with you. Collaborate! Rather than rivaling against other people, team up with them!
In this way, you remove yourself from the ‘competitive edge’ and you reflect the message of Christmas:
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not to his own interests, but the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who… made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:3-4)