I am privileged to live in a retirement facility where I continue to learn from other residents and members of the staff.
Recently, a waitress was given the opportunity to fulfill the role of the dining room manager when that manager was absent for a week. The following week, when she was serving breakfast, a number of us were teasing her and pointing out that she was now just an ordinary worker and no longer a manager. After the laughter had died down, I went to her in private and said how well she had done and that we were very proud of her. Very humbly, she thanked me, and then she said, “I only tried to do my best.”
Her wise response made me think how so much of our society is based on trying to be better than someone else. In sports, we always want our team to defeat the competition. In school, we want to get higher marks than fellow students. In business, we place high value on those who succeed in competitive situations, even if others are sometimes hurt in the process.
Occasionally, we hear the famous quote from Grantland Rice: “It’s not whether you win or lose; it’s how you play the game.” Sometimes, we will hear an Olympian speak of exceeding a personal best. But most of the time, all the talk is about who defeated whom and by how much.
This desire to be better than someone else is ingrained in us early in life. At our Christmas party for the children of staff, there were balloons twisted in various shapes. Our manager has three children, including an adorable three-year-old boy. He picked up a balloon that was shaped like a sword. One of our residents (95 years old and very tall) picked one up and the two of them engaged in a sword fight. It was hilarious and great entertainment for all of us.
What impressed me, however, was the resolute look on the face of the three-year-old. He was determined to win, it seemed, at all costs. Later, when I discussed it with his father, he agreed that we tend to bring up our children to win. Society seems to dictate that we must win at all costs. Much of the stress in life comes from the fact that we always seem to be striving to be better or more successful than someone else.
I believe that God wants us to do our very best. Vince Lombardi is quoted as saying, “The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.”
But here is the ultimate challenge:
“Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10b KJV)
If we do this, surely, then we will follow the example of doing our best and not be concerned whether we are better than someone else.
Prayer: Dear Father, help us to rise above the noise around us urging us to be better than others. Help us to realize that Your simple yet profound command is to be faithful in our love for You and service to others. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Reprinted from the PresbyCan Daily Devotional with the author’s permission