Monday, March 1, 2010

The Competitive Spirit

Along with millions of viewers, I watched the thrilling Olympic gold medal hockey game between the U.S. and Canada. The game lived up to its sky high expectations and was decided in overtime (Canada won 3-2).

What I really appreciate about hockey is how, after the game, the players skate by each other and shake hands. After battling each other in a very physically demanding game, they demonstrate good sportsmanship. Even bitter rivals participate in this ritual of post-game handshaking.

Competition is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can bring out the best in us. Competition makes us work harder and try harder. However, the other "edge" of the competitive sword is that it creates a win-lose situation. To win and avoid losing, competitors sometimes violate the rules or even cheat. In this way competition brings out the worst in us.

When it comes to spirituality, competition must give way to cooperation. There is no competition for "most spiritual" or "most soulful." However, by forming relationships with other spiritual seekers, we can cooperate in the mutual goal of deepening our spiritual life.

The closest to "the competitive spirit" in spirituality is to be inspired by the spirituality of others. We imitate them, not as a way of competing with them, but as a way of growing in our own spiritual life. Spiritual greats inspire us to be more disciplined in our own life and provide an example for us to aspire to.

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