Wednesday, April 26, 2023

The Dark Side of Competition

The Merle Haggard song doesn't quite fit the context, but the tag line is where I want to start:

Yeah, walkin' on the fightin' side of meRunnin' down a way of life our fightin' men have fought and died to keepIf you don't love it, leave itLet this song I'm singin' be a warnin'When you're runnin' down my country, manYou're walkin' on the fightin' side of me

The message of that song is- there are things worth fighting for! There is a use of competition- there is a reality of competition.

And the purpose of this post is honestly to admit problems and explore unintended realities in the world of high level competition. Over 30 plus years of being in competition, I have seen the toothpaste come out of the tube from even the best of people. Competition is conflict and sometimes the testosterone can get the best of us.

It can happen at any level: little league, church softball, pick-up basketball, high school, college, and professional games.

Competition can have negative effects on individuals, organizations, and society as a whole.
There is a potential dark side of competition:

Unethical behavior: Competition can create a culture of winning at all costs, which can lead individuals or organizations to engage in unethical or even illegal behavior.

I personally get sad when I see how often successful competitors are often accused of cheating and this makes me suspect that there is a lot of cheating. Can't we just congratulate the winners until cheating is proven? And if there is cheating, we need to crack down hard on it..but it shouldn't be a knee jerk reaction to assume the worst.

Stress and burnout: The pressure to succeed in a competitive environment can be overwhelming, leading to stress, burnout, and even mental health issues.

I'm seeing this more and more..... when competition gets out of balance, it can wreck a life!

Exclusion: Competition can create winners and losers, and those who lose may feel excluded or marginalized. This can be especially true for individuals or groups who are already disadvantaged.

In the old days, champions didn't trash talk and respect was important. A winner was classy and that helped honor the opponent.

Short-term thinking: In the pursuit of victory, individuals and organizations may prioritize short-term gains over long-term sustainability.

I remember thinking way back in 1994 and praying to the Lord that if we ever did win a state championship in football, I wanted to look around after that win and still have my faith, my family, and my friends. And I was blessed to experience that in just a few years after that.

Hostility: Intense competition can create a hostile environment, both within and between organizations. This can lead to conflicts and even violence.

I have seen too many times where competition drove people to unhealthy states in temper, words, and actions.

James 1:20- for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Overall, competition can have both positive and negative effects. While it can motivate individuals and organizations to strive for excellence, it can also create a range of negative consequences if not managed carefully.

Whether the positive or negative aspects of competition outweigh each other can depend on the specific context and the individuals involved.

In some cases, the positive effects of competition can be significant, such as when it motivates individuals and organizations to innovate, improve their performance, and achieve their goals. This can lead to increased productivity, economic growth, and other benefits.

However, the negative effects of competition can also be significant, such as when it leads to the negative attributes listed above. These negative effects can have long-term consequences for individuals, organizations, and society as a whole.

I still believe healthy competition is important, but it is also important for me to know the dangers as well.

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