Here’s How to Survive in a World Where Everyone Wants to be “the Best”
So much of secular life is all about the quest to be ‘the best’ at something, or at least, ‘better than most.’ The worst fear of every schoolchild is to be chosen last, or to be the worst speller, or worst reader, or . . . fill in the blank.
As I’ve worked with children with learning disabilities, who live their whole lives in that ‘last zone,’ and after having watched as their hearts broke again and again after experiencing the sting of failure, rejection, or ridicule while the muffled laughter of their not-last peers was still ringing in their ears, I began seeking the Lord for understanding about society’s endless pursuit of ‘best.’ Aside from the obvious answer that it is a pride-driven goal, (‘bragging rights’ are highly coveted aren’t they?) it has much to do with that upside-down kingdom that is God’s.
A game of thrones…
Here on earth, in the secular kingdom, intellect is everything. But in that Other Kingdom, LOVE is everything. On the surface that seems so trite and powerless. But in the realm of The Spirit, love is that virtue without which, our very faith is impotent. Galatians 5:6 tells us that “Faith worketh by love.” Therefore if our love walk is weak; so will be our faith. That being the case, understanding just what this ‘love’ looks like is vital to our spiritual best. We find a fairly comprehensive description in 1 Corinthians 13:
- “Love is patient and kind,” (even when we are better at something than someone else.)
- “Love is not jealous,” (when someone else gets the new car, or the promotion, or whatever.)
- “or boastful,” (about that better grade made by ourselves or our children,)
- “or proud,” (when our mate or parent is in a position of authority and have the respect of the community,)
- “or rude.” (Even if we feel that what we have to say is more valid.)
- “It does not demand its own way.” (Even if we believe our way is better.)
- “It is not irritable,” (even when we’ve had to answer that same question dozens of times,)
- “and keeps no record of being wronged.” (Even in marriage or as an in-law.)
- “It does not rejoice about injustice, but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.” (even when we or our child gets corrected in the process)
- “Love never gives up,” (on a loved one, student, co-worker,)
- “never loses faith,” (in the worst circumstances,)
- “is always hopeful” (even when all seems lost,)
- “and endures through every circumstance.” (No matter how difficult.)
- And the Bible promises, “Love never fails.“
Here, we’ve come full circle, right back to the very thing this secular kingdom sets as its primary goal: Success! For the opposite of ‘never fail’ is ‘never succeed.’ So if we place God’s priority above our own desire for success; if our motivation is LOVE, the natural byproduct is the very success we desire. Success in and of itself is not wrong, even God promises ‘good success’ to those who keep His Word in their thoughts day and night and guarantees that they will prosper, (Joshua, 1:8). But if success is our primary goal, it becomes elusive; and even if we do obtain a measure of it, it is hollow, empty, futile.
Here is the thing I’ve come to realize: every time we encounter someone who is less proficient at something than we are, it is a test of our love walk. Love vs. pride. Which will win? If we respond in derision, contempt, superiority, or—my personal favorite—sarcasm, then pride has won at the expense of our faith.
Life is all about how we respond to others. It’s less about being first than it is about how we treat others to get there. It’s less about being best, and more about being kind in our quest for excellence. It is not about success as much as it is about how we view those who are less successful than ourselves. It’s not that we shouldn’t correct those who need it, but that when we do correct them, we do so in love and humility with their best interest as our motive. Proving someone wrong just for the sake of being right, fulfills the truism that even when we’re right, we’re still wrong.
Think about it…
Approaching life’s daily annoyances, aggravations, offenses and such from this perspective will transform our faith life. Go ahead, give it a try. Live the next day with the mindset that every encounter is a love-test. Every task given is a test to see how you will treat the other people involved. Will you love your neighbors as yourself?
It’s a life-long test. Will you pass? Or fail.