Baseball Player Lines
The World Series is happening right now and it reminds me of a story I once heard from a Fire Chief named Dennis Compton. Like me, Dennis is a Cubs fan. (Please pray for us, and for the Cubbies as well.) And one year he was excited and filled with hope, because the Cubs had this hot new player named Rafael Palmeiro. Palmeiro had just finished a close second to Tony Gwynn in the National League batting champion race, and it looked like his potential was off the chart. So what do the Cubs do? They trade him to the Texas Rangers. Well Compton was so upset about it, he telephoned the Cubs’ sports psychologist, who happened to be a friend of his, and invited him to lunch so he could find out just what in the world the Cubs’ management was thinking.
This sports psychologist had an interesting way of explaining the situation. He drew these lines on a piece of paper. Then he explained to Compton how every ball player’s career is a line. He said some players advance their career by lengthening their own line. But other players advance their career by finding ways to shorten the lines of the players around them. Palmeiro, he said, was a line shortener. He was great at the plate, but he was poison in the locker room. (After Rafael Palmeiro was traded, the Texas Rangers wisely paired him up with an older player who took him under his wing and taught him how to be a good teammate.)
How Jesus Loved People
In our last post An Open Letter to Type A Christian Men we ended with the words of Jesus:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” -Jesus Christ, Matthew 11:28-30
Jesus was, and is, “gentle and humble in heart.” So of course, we should be gentle and humble in heart towards people too. Yet our reality is permeated with competition. We live in a capitalist competitive culture so if you want to earn a living, you have to compete. And it’s tough out there. Every hiring process, every promotional process, every customer has other candidates working against you, and hey, you have to beat them out if you want the job. So you have to compete, right?
Love Like Jesus
Here’s a strange thing. This professor, Robert Helmreich, from the University of Texas, studied successful scientists, pilots, ticket agents, and businessmen, and he found they all had something in common. Their focus was on enjoying challenging tasks, and, learning how to do their thing better and better–without regard for the performance of those around them. In other words, the most successful people tended toward a noncompetitive personality type. They tended not to compare themselves to others.
So the way Jesus lived his life, with gentleness and humility of heart, is associated with the success of these scientists and businessmen. As I study Christ, I can’t imagine Jesus the carpenter shortening the line of another competing carpenter. I imagine him just as Helmreich describes the most successful among us, as someone who enjoys the challenge before him and is interested in doing the best possible without regard for how others around him are performing.
Comparing your performance to another person makes no sense in the context of God, Christ, and eternity.
Jesus once told a crowd of listeners, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:43) You might extrapolate that to include: Love your competitor.
So love the challenges God puts before you. Let your focus be on constant improvement in whatever your Father has given you to do. And work without regard for how those around you are performing. Don’t let a competitive spirit sour any relationships, or compromise your love for others.
That’s what Jesus did.
You can too.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves… (Philippians 2:3)
You might also like A Burning Hand, Luck, Nike, and a Sundial in the Shade
[Blog headline image via Stuart Barr – Creative Commons]
[Resources: Alfie Kohn, No Contest, Houghlin Mifflin; 1992, Kurt Bennett, Traveler and the Chaplain, Enoch Media, 2013]
- For further study see also, 2 Corinthians 12:20, Galations 5:19-20, and James 3:14-16.
- The word compete doesn’t appear anywhere in the bible, nor do any of its derivatives.
- Robert Helmreich is the same person who came up with Crew Resource Management, a system in which any crew member of an aircraft can voice a safety concern at anytime. Helmreich’s Crew Resource Management system is credited with saving many lives.
This reminds me of a blog post I just did on II Timothy 4:7. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. You are right about the word competition. With God we are all winners when we cross the finish line.
Kurt, this blog post was timely. Great stuff.
Great to hear from you Adam. Keep moving closer to Christ!