Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mud Wrestlin' - The Competitive Woman

Two in a series of how women treat each other...and what to do about it. 

Competition. It's what makes the world go 'round...right?

I've never, ever, been at all interested in sports, or even competitive games, but I have to admit, I do have a streak that makes me want to make the highest score in the class, or at least the highest score possible. I truly don't mind if others share that score with me, just don't let anyone be higher than me. I remember crying once in high school over making a 98% on a final exam.  I would have rather made a 94% than come so close and still not achieve perfection, so yeah, the competition thing, apparently there is a speck of it even in little old me.

In many ways competition can be a good thing, causing us to strive to do our very best.  However, there is an uglier side to it and when paired with our own insecurities (and yes, we all have those as well), the outcome can get nasty.

We've all witnessed this.  Someone is the established queen o' the kitchen and someone new comes in sporting their fabulous recipes. Or perhaps they are a better piano player, or you've always directed the Christmas play and now the powers that be dared to give someone else a shot at it.   I don't need to give many examples, you know what I'm talking about.
Sometimes though it's not even that someone is actually better than we are, it's that we perceive them to be a threat.
We keep chickens.  Let me tell you a few things about hens. They are loud, they squawk, they announce with pride their own accomplishments (and there are few sounds more grating than a hen laying her egg), they can't keep their trap shut even when it would benefit them (give a hen a treat and she immediately has to spread the news. And no, I'm not giving them credit for wanting to share the treats, because they will attack anyone who gets too close, they just want to brag that they got a treat and you didn't.) You've heard of the expression, "the pecking order", oh yes, it's true.  A new bird doesn't have to show a threat, she merely has to show up and someone will perceive her as a threat. It may not be the top lady, but somewhere down the line, one girl will decide that this new chick is a problem and begin to persecute her.  What? you say this sounds familiar and you have never even seen a chicken?  Mmm hmm, there is a reason why a derogatory term for women is "hens."

We've seen it. We may have even done it.  Snide remarks from the sidelines. Rejoicing silently (or not so silently) when others fail. One-upping each other over anything... kids, crafts, cooking, singing. Slinging mud. It's a constant chorus of "anything you can do, I can do better..."

Oh sisters, it's ugly, and it's among us...in us. But it has no place in ladies who are redeemed and filled with the Holy Spirit.  It's hurtful to our target and makes us appear weak and petty to those witnessing it.  It's unwholesome, unladylike, and ungodly.  Girls, we gots to get RID of it. Here are a few thoughts on how we can work on it.

1. Own it.  Even if you think that you are keeping this attitude pretty private, chances are that the longer you let it fester, the more it's going to come public, or may have already.  If you know that you have a "thing" with a particular lady, examine yourself!  "Oh it's just a personality clash, I don't truly dislike her!"  Hmm... Ask God to show you the deep parts of your heart. Ask a trusted sister to "get real" with you  and tell you if they see issues. Often this competitive spirit can be traced back to feelings of insecurity, the attacks are merely a symptom of other problems that need to be dealt with, but we can't take out our issues on others while we work through them either.

2. Confess it.  To God of course first, but really, if you have made any "zingers" to anyone else, you should apologize to them too.  How about your target?  This one can get tricky.  If the lady honestly has no idea that you have been gunning for her, it can be a wee bit disconcerting to have someone come up and say, "hey, I'm sorry that I've had a bad attitude toward  you, disliked you, and mocked you."   On the other hand, if she knows (and if you've had the attitude for any length of time, she does), you must apologize and ask forgiveness.  With an open heart ask God to show you exactly how much apologizing you need to do; this is also a  good place to seek counsel from someone.

3. Change it.  My personal church background seemed to have put a lot of  emphasis on praying about it and very little on actually doing something about it.  Please understand, I'm not knocking the idea of praying about it, and asking God for help (without him, it's just a self-help program),  but at some point we need to exercise self-control and simply rein it in.
Attitudes change from the inside. If possible, seek to truly become friends with her. If that isn't going to happen (not everyone is meant to be best friends) then at least look for opportunities  to (openly) admire her skills and truly appreciate how she is a benefit to your church or group.  Another thing is to pray for her.  I admit that at first it is just words, but there is something powerful in prayer and when you pray God's blessing on someone, after a while, a change comes over your own heart and you simply can't hate them any longer.

4. Accountability.  Is there someone who can  help you break this attitude and habit?  (do you see a theme here? accountability, it's a good thing.  perhaps a future post)  Best would be someone who sees you with her, but if not, then just someone who will ask you how it's going and encourage you along.

Romans 12:2 tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, and Ephesians 4:32 teaches us to be kind and tenderhearted toward each other.  Jesus also said in John 13:35 that we will be known as his followers by the love we show each other.
Ask God to make these verses real to you, ask him to show you if there is other scriptures that would be meaningful to you on this topic, climb out of the mud and extend a hand of friendship.

This article was mostly written shortly after the last one, but I hesitated in posting it because I didn't think I had this issue and therefore wasn't suited to address it.  I'm chagrined to say that the Lord has shown me that indeed there is indeed a little bit of competitiveness in me.  Apparently I have this need to be the wittiest, cleverest person in the room. I am compelled to have the last word (and oh how my last word is amusing!). I even tried to explain to God that actually, this is ok, my friends LIKE it. However, he had the last word and asked me to consider situations in which there may be someone who is more reserved, perhaps it took a very real effort to even speak up, and instead of truly considering them, I used their statement as a springboard for my own witty repartee.  Ouch.  Lord help me to monitor my tongue, help me learn to be willing to let opportunities to show off slide on by so that others may be truly heard. I never want to crush the spirit of a shyer person who may have had a hard time speaking up in the first place. Temper my mouth, may I always consider others first. 

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