Yahtzee, Sorry, Nertz, Pit, and Gin Rummy. These were some of the games we played in my family when I was a kid. We enjoyed hours of fun and friendly competition. Sure, sometimes the games got a little intense because we all wanted to win. And when my mother was involved…well…let’s just say she doesn’t like to be beaten.
I graduated from board games and card games and later joined the team sports realm where I played organized basketball and softball. I started in elementary, played through middle school, and added volleyball to my resume in high school. And again, we all wanted to win. We worked hard, trained hard, and played hard all in an effort to beat our opponents.
Games are supposed to build character, right? Healthy competition is supposed to be good for you, right? But is competition really ever healthy? The desire to do better, be better, look better than everyone else? Do you really write better poems or do better in business or sing better in the musical or stand in higher regard if your number one motivation is to be the top dog? Does this really make you better than the rest? Other than the coveted “W” what have you really achieved?
Who wants to stand in victory if it means someone else walks away in defeat? Yet, who desires to lose when it’s so crucial to win?
But wait…it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. Isn’t that what they say?
Maybe it’s neither that count. Maybe it has nothing to do with competition, but everything to do with comradery, cooperation, and collaboration that really build character.
When we play together, maybe this is where we learn to win battles. Or perhaps it’s when we play together that we learn to avoid them all together.
The Apostle Paul sometimes writes as if he’s no stranger to games and competition. “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1). Is the point to get there first and fastest…or simply to get there?
“Fight the good fight…” he writes in 1 Timothy 6:12. Is it the fight to overcome the best of the competition he’s talking about, or is the fight to overcome the worst in ourselves?
Lily Tomlin once said, “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” Say that again…even if you win, you’re still a rat.
Games are a tricky thing, indeed. So often we consider everyone else to be our opponent…our enemy. But maybe, just maybe, it’s the enemy within—the opponent that we see in the mirror each day—that needs to be the one defeated.