Competitive Edge

The young mother told me about their family’s plan to travel to Europe during our upcoming Spring Break.  It wasn’t unusual in our affluent school community for students to travel to international locations.  But as she told about taking all five children to Spain, Portugal, and Morocco, I found myself calculating the costs rather than listening to her.  I wondered how they could afford such a trip for their family of seven.


Walking away from our conversation, I felt irritated, wishing our family could have afforded a trip like that when our sons were in middle school.  Later, when the noise in my head settled down, I heard that ‘still small voice in me’ asking, “What would you have said to her if you hadn’t been jealous?”

There was no hiding my envy, the comparison of my life to her life.  What would I have said if I’d just listened and not come from a place of competition?

I would have responded that she was providing a wonderful experience for her family, making rich memories.  My mind would have been engaged in listening to her descriptions of places they would stay, sites they would see, experiencing the excitement of anticipation with her.  But instead, I walled that part off, putting a barrier up between us during our encounter.  I missed that opportunity to share in her life.

Having been a school nurse for twenty years, I’ve thought a lot about competition.  Every day in the Health Room, I saw adolescents that competed in academics, sports, and social standing.  There was the constant comparison of height, weight, appearance, artistic talent, and on and on.  They compared themselves to one another in their name brand shoes and clothes, latest and greatest phones, computers, and other tech devices.  The comparisons didn’t end with those in their immediate community like they did in my middle school days.  Now students had comparisons with their social media communities that kept the noise going 24/7.


Entering school for another day of competition

I look in the dictionary at the word competitive—not so much for the meaning as for the synonyms.  Sometimes that helps me gain a broader perspective on a familiar word.  From the list of synonyms, the one that jumps out at me is aggressive.  Is that what I’m being when I respond from a competitive place?  Is that the world around us as we compare ourselves, whether we’re middle schoolers or adults?

I check the synonyms for edge and I’m struck by the word ledge.  It fills me with that fear I experience when looking down from a steep point, that feeling that I’m falling.

Now I put those synonyms together and instead of Competitive Edge, which sounds acceptable, like what we aspire to, it becomes Aggressive Ledge.  That feels scary, a vantage point of attack, a place that I don’t want to live from.

What if we came down from that ledge and lived our lives, honoring our own path and allowing others’ to do the same.  We wouldn’t need to feel less than or greater than, just be ourselves and be thankful for our lives.  Then we could hear each others’ stories without building barriers.

Maybe then my first reaction wouldn’t be envy, but curiosity about that path that you’re traveling.  If I’m secure about the life I’m living, I don’t need to be looking for comparisons.  Walking that course, I can be present to the people along my way, thankful for my life and supportive of theirs.


How about You?

In what ways do you compare yourself with those around you?

How could you become more secure in your own path?


8 thoughts on “Competitive Edge

  1. I find as we grow older, envy lessons. You compete less. It’s easier to be generous. Everyone has gifts we don’t have, but everyone has problems we don’t have.
    My old dad used to say it’s a gift if we can see ourselves as others see us. So, as we get older we become aware of our shortcomings. We also become more aware of our good traits. I suppose this is what is meant by the expression that wisdom comes with age.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is profound! Thank you for sharing. From wrestling with competitiveness with siblings, I am learning to be joyful when anyone relates their journey. It also makes me aware not to disclose things that might make others envious. Connie – you are a jewel and I miss you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Barbara,
    I miss you, too! I’m glad you mentioned ‘wrestling with competitiveness with siblings’ because that’s the point that this issues springs from. Our earliest memories are those comparisons– at least they are for me. You’re right that we should be aware of what we share and how it impacts others. While I was jealous of the mother traveling with family to Europe, there are things that I’ve done that someone may feel the same way about. I guess the best we can do is be aware, thoughtful and prayerful about how we relate to others. Thanks so much for reading and sharing, Barbara. Best to you! Connie


  4. Well said Sister Connie!! I get your drift fully as it is also hard for me to listen to such as THIS. There are undisclosed snafus in the MOST perfect appearing lives. GREAT job!!!! H People with this SES level can’t relate to very many people for they are at the small end of the bell curve!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I will remember “Aggressive Ledge”. I had always thought of myself as non-competitive until I started to see how I felt threatened and jealous sometimes on hearing of others’ achievements. Then I realized how competitive I really am, perhaps in a “passive-aggressive” way! Thanks for another insightful post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jennifer,
      Thanks for reading and sharing how you’ve experienced being competitive. I do think it slips up on us–especially given all the ways we feel we have to compete these days. Best to you! Connie


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