A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone (p. 122).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
My first fear as I read this quote is, “Could I keep my level of motivation if I lost the drive of competition?” For as long as I can remember I have used competition in order to spur me on. I see people who do great things (athletically, academically, or spiritually) and I am challenged to be where they are; energy grows within me as I see someone ahead of me.
As I listen to myself I am taken to Hebrews 10:24, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” Have I misused competition as a sinful application of this verse? Or, have I rightly applied this verse and just used a bad word to describe what was happening?
Competition as Sinful Application
I think the answer is both. There are times when I have wanted to overtake (get ahead of) the one I perceive to be in front of me. The tone of my heart is, “They must decrease (at least by one spot) to make room for me, so I can increase.”
In these cases I want to win. Pride is crouching at my door (Gen. 4:7) and I am welcoming it into my living room so I can use it as a spiritual-steroid. Just like in the Olympics, I become a disqualified contestant in God’s race of faith because I am using the performance-enhancing drug of sin (1 Cor. 9:24).
In these cases even my effectiveness only accelerates my soul rot. I begin to see pride as my “friend” because it helped me “win” and am able to justify it because it was “for God” (such an oxymoron when it comes to sin of pride). Next time I am prone to call my “friend” pride to come help, instead of competitive pride having to crouch at the door and ask to be let in.
Right Action; Wrong Word
There are other times when I think what I am calling competition is merely swept up in the current of another person’s example of excellence. Instead of crying out, “They must decrease so I can increase,” my heart says, “I love where they’re going and want to go there with them.”
In this case I think I am following the relational dynamic recommended by Paul in I Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” The key word that changes everything is “with” instead of “ahead.”
One is built upon a pure desire for mutual progress (with) which is enthused for the example to charge ahead to blaze the trail for me and others. The other is built upon rank (ahead) which wants to see the example fade and treats “others” who may rise up as only “new competition.”
As in all cases of questions asked of the human heart, I find my motives to be neither all bad nor all good. I cannot justify myself even in my “best” (especially in terms of “rank”) actions (Isa. 64:6). But as I see my heart more clearly by the light of God grace, I am freed from the sin of competitive pride, because I realize the prize I was striving for is received, not won.