Thursday, May 14, 2009

Never Compete – It Only Harms Relationships

An ugly incident occurred between two ordinary friends and it revolved around a football game. Both favoured opposite teams and the rivalry had been friendly but fierce for several months in the lead up. I guess looking back, I could see this coming, but I honestly didn’t think much of it.

In sporting games, only one team can win at a time; the odds are inevitable that both teams will have their time, their season of winning, and losing. It’s the nature and law of life. Nobody wins (or loses) forever. It’s a fact that one of these guys didn’t think much of this ‘law.’ His team had consistently won, but this time they lost. He was so bitterly disappointed that in a moment of weakness he said some things to his friend and the rest is history. Their friendship, for now, is over.

Something so sad and avoidable brings a few concepts regarding relationships together. Simply, they are these:

The “Golden Rule” and rejection work hand in hand--for and against--in all relationships

Both of these guys probably knew this but temporarily forgot it. One’s friendly gibes provoked the other’s and even in jest they didn’t treat each other as they would want to be treated. As a result both felt rejected by the other.

Application of the golden rule heals and promotes health in relationships; rejection conversely (even in jest) harms relationships. The degree of rejection was the key in this incident--what would normally have been said in jest, suddenly had a sinister, hurt tone about it. It saliently brings home the truth that ‘hurt people, hurt people.’[1]

The principle of ‘living at peace with enemies’ was violated

“When the ways of people please the LORD, he causes even their enemies to be at peace with them” –Proverbs 16:7 (NRSV). Both these guys didn’t understand the scope of this truth.

They might have associated their relationship as one of pure friendship, but all relationships have limits, and these must be respected. Regarding their burgeoning rivalry they’d become, ironically, enemies--even if only in one part of their worldview.

Rivalry and agitation at times can spoil friendship

“Rivalry discloses faults which courtesy would hide” –Balthasar Gracian. Both guys chose a so-called friendly rivalry but didn’t realise in the process they’d self-expose faults which might offend the other. And all of us have faults we’d prefer to remain hidden.

This proverb also comes close: “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends” –Proverbs 17:9 (TNIV). Friendships can bear only so much agitation before it gets annoying, then frustrating.

Then, as Balthasar Gracian says again, “Competition begins with belittling, and seeks aid wherever it can, not only where it ought.”[2] Things get messy in play fights; we all experienced this as kids. It simply doesn’t change. Our natures toward antagonism don’t change.

If we value our friendships we must respect the boundaries applying the golden rule and being very wary of the impact of even jestful rejection.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] This pithy noun-verb proverb is such a powerful truth.
[2] The Aphorism (#114) is called “Never Compete” and it is a stroke of genius. Here it is verbatim: “Every competition damages the credit: our rivals seize occasion to obscure us so as to out-shine us. Few wage honourable war. Rivalry discloses faults which courtesy would hide. Many have lived in good repute while they had no rivals. The heat of conflict gives life, or even new life, to dead scandals, and digs up long-buried skeletons. Competition begins with belittling, and seeks aid wherever it can, not only where it ought. And when the weapons of abuse do not effect their purpose, as often or mostly happens, our opponents use them for revenge, and use them at least for beating away the dust of oblivion from anything to our discredit. Men of good-will are always at peace; men of good repute and dignity are men of good-will.” This is available from:

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