Whether it’s nature or nurture, it’s undeniable; there are some folks for whom EVERYTHING is a competition. There must be a winner and a loser in every encounter. I understand this, for I am a very competitive person. At the age of old and gray, I now understand that an unchecked competitive nature is exhausting and counterproductive.
When we sit down to play a board game, in my family, everyone at the table is geared up for fierce competition, which we all agree is fun. When we sit down to discuss who should have won the Emmy for best actor in a comedy series or whether Rob Ford is a better mayor than Rahm Emanuel, we also gear up for a fight, which is not quite as much fun.
In some cases, winning is not the appropriate objective. Sometimes, it is more important to learn from hearing a different viewpoint. Sometimes, it is necessary to honor someone’s pain. Sometimes, it is more beneficial to cooperate, and when we can’t cooperate, sometimes, it’s better to withdraw from the fight.
as in Retreat?
An excellent bit of special-needs-child-rearing advice, received years ago, has proven to be invaluable for me in a much broader application:
“Ask yourself, Is this the hill worth dying for?”
I don’t deny there are things worth fighting for, but not EVERYTHING. Most of the time, we just waste our energy, make ourselves look foolish, or end up on the canvas, bloodied and broken for no good reason, except that we fail, before we step into the battle, to ask whether or not it’s a fight worth fighting.
The biggest fight is often the one inside our own heads, where arrogance and hurt feelings conspire against reason and restraint. Ask yourself whether or not it’s worth it to try to take that hill. Pause before pressing the More Adrenaline NOW button. It is not a mark of cowardice or weakness to walk away from a competition you deem unworthy of your effort. It is a mark of self-respect . . .
and don’t let that bastard Hubris tell you no different, neither!