Disclaimer: This is a two-part post, starting with the bad news first, so now you can mentally prepare yourself—you’re welcome.

I am at this stage in life where 1/3 of my friends are in serious relationships or getting married, 1/3 are having babies or already have a kid, and a 1/3 (like me) are still figuring out what we want to be when we grow up (nothing wrong with being a late bloomer 🙂 ).

About a month or so ago I went with one of my mom friends on a play date where we took her toddler and another kid to the playground (for the purpose of this blog, let’s call the kids Jack and Jill).  My friend and I got to talk & catch up while the Jack & Jill got to play.

Kids are the best because with them you get the real deal—no filters, sugar coating or pretense and our little play date opened my eyes to a whole new world of the mom life and clued me in to burdens and joys that we face in Masterpiece living.

As I saw various families come and go in our time together, it was very clear that there is a hierarchy that kids pick up on when it comes to playground etiquette.  It made my heart sad that so early in life kids have to learn the hard lessons of this “dog-eat-dog” world that follow them into adulthood.

I first noticed it when we started pushing Jack and Jill on the swings. Jack is two and Jill is probably about four or five.  I opted to push Jill on the swing and I obliged her when she insisted on going higher.  The problem came when Jill got higher than Jack and made a point to brag, “look, I’m higher than you.”  If you know me, then you can understand why my head reared around so quick at this comment, with a “say what?” expression on my face.

Um….no!  First off, you didn’t get yourself higher—I pushed you higher.  Second, Jack is two, why are you expecting him to be where you are?  And finally, little Jill, why are you rubbing it in his face that you’re in a “better” position or situation?

But doesn’t this happen to us?  There we are going along in our stride, enjoying being in the height of where life has us, doing the best we can and then someone comes around and gloats, “Look, I’m higher than you.” Ugh…the worst!

So Jill and I had a little chat.  I assured her that while it’s all fun and games, her swinging alongside Jack wasn’t a competition.  I encouraged her to be aware of her manner of bragging and hopefully it sank in as a teaching moment.  But really, she’s four or five, so who knows, but I’m hopeful.

So a little time went by, “tensions” died down because, “look, squirrel” and we moved to another part of the playground.  This time it was the monkey bars.  Jack and Jill were playing together nicely when two sisters came over to where we were.

Jill was struggling a bit to make it all the way across the monkey bars, which immediately prompted the older of the sisters (maybe age 6) who had just joined us to show that she could not only make it across but do it faster without breaking a sweat.  When she finished she looked to my friend and I for approval of her accomplishment, which we didn’t give, as well as to Jill to emphasize her glaring victory in the unnamed competition.  I could see it in Jill’s eyes that the defeat was real.  So we pulled Jill aside again, but this time in affirmation that she got as far as she could and that she didn’t have anything to prove—we were proud of where she did get and that she could always try again.  You’ll be happy to know that the next go around on the monkey bars Jill did make it across steady and confident.  It was awesome to see her stand up for her abilities and let the previous set back propel her to reaching her goal.

I’m not a mom, but from the outside looking in, play dates can be rough.  I mean, yes, there are fun and games that take place; but there are also owies that can bring tears and sometimes, even scars.  Kudos to those parents out there trying to teach your kids to be good humans, my hats off to you, it’s no walk in the park.

As I tie this back to Masterpiece living, it is no wonder we sometimes suck at life when it comes to our interactions with others.  We’ve learned the pangs of unhealthy competition starting from such a young age that we can have this auto pilot response to show where we fall in the playground pecking order.  In our desire to want to come out at the top of the bunch or less than mediocre, it can sometimes, not always, be at the expense of others.  Boo on that!!!

I started to ask, is there such a thing as healthy competition.  So much of stuff that I read is that it’s “boo on competition” and “yay on collaboration,” probably because so many people do feel like underachievers in these incognito bouts of proving ourselves.  But I actually love the way that Henry Cloud puts it in his book, The Power of the Other, he writes,

“The word compete comes from the Late Latin verb competere, ‘to seek together’…competing together to reach a goal. We need others not to beat them or prove that we’re good to ourselves or someone else, but simply to fuel us for the intrinsic value competition has for our highest purposes. It is seeking your real, authentic, and intrinsic best in the context of others.

When we root competition in the mindset of there being a winner or a loser (and at all costs I can’t be the loser) we put ourselves at odds with others, fueling environments of rivalry. However if we look to other people, acknowledge that they may be further along than us in a particular area and seek mutual growth or even, God forbid, ask for their help in our getting to where they are, we have potential to grow in relationship with others, furthering healthy communities in the playgrounds we frequent.

Reminder, it’s not all bad…there were some amazing things that encouraged me on the playground…but my encouragement to myself, and also to you is to recognize whom we have or are competing with and ask why.  Are we trying to emphasize that we are higher than others showing off our position or possibly feeling less than because we aren’t as good as so-and-so? And what are some of the underlying issues fueling those mindsets?  My hope is to reclaim competition so that we are each living into the fullest measure of who we are called to be and dispelling the attitudes that would keep us at odds with people because given the chance, those people may help us to become better versions of ourselves.

Until next time…Live as a Masterpiece!

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