Westmont Magazine Competition and Comparison
“As a scholar and an athlete, my life has been ruled by comparison. Athletic and academic competition is healthy; it promotes excellence. And acknowledging spiritual and physical talents is right. But I have had to draw a fine line between proper competition and the comparison of self-worth. Living as a slave to comparison is not right and not healthy.
“My journey at Westmont began three years ago. I skipped my senior year of high school, attempting to run away from a self-created life of pain. These years have been a search to uncover my true self and my eternal identity. Now, at the ripe old age of 20, I feel I have been exposed to a myriad of experiences that have grown me beyond my physical years. The largest single factor of maturation in my life is God, loving and encouraging me through Coach Russell Smelley.
“I arrived at Russell’s office a young, immature, fearful and anorexic girl, barely 17 years old. Mine is not an unusual story: a perfectionist, the daughter of a wonderful Christian family, who never failed at anything, but lived with a constant fear of failure. No matter how many medals or awards hung on the wall, I never felt I measured up to a standard that was really a figment of my imagination.
“Tonight I say thank you to Russell for his care, his patience, and his love. The love of Christ took me captive through the person of Russell and began to turn a broken, dried-out, and lifeless body into a strong, honest, joyful, and alive woman.
“Comparison is a major ill in the academic and athletic realms. If you search long enough — and some of us don’t have to search very long at all — you can always find someone smarter, faster, or more attractive. I created a life of pain for myself when I became a slave to comparison. I lost sight of the eternal standard of God, the holy life of Christ Jesus, to which we are to compare all thoughts and actions.
“Now this is not to say that our work should never be compared with others; this is what breeds achievement and excellence. I am talking instead about the comparison of traits that leads to a judgment of human value. When we set other humans, who are in reality as fallen and as sinful as ourselves, as the goal or the mark for judging self-identity and worth, we become slaves to comparison.
“It is in this way that athletics and academics are both beneficial and destructive. They provide an arena to celebrate talents and gifts and give an opportunity to challenge ourselves and improve our lives. But competition, when carried too far, leads to this unhealthy comparison. If self-worth is based on performance and relative performance to others, then competition has taken on a warped function. It no longer spurs us toward excellence but breeds feelings of inadequacy.
“We can praise God by competing with the gifts he has given us. In athletics and academics we learn to enjoy success and accept defeat. But it is imperative to remember the higher and eternal scale for judging ourselves. Let me challenge you to never compare your self-worth, who you are as an eternal being, to any standard other than that set by the life of Christ Jesus.”