During the eulogy at a funeral mass I recently attended, the officiator said, “In the end, it doesn’t matter how many medals and trophies, or how many titles and belongings you may have been able to accumulate. What really matters is how you treated others, and what you did for them, especially those who needed the most.”
I feel that, in our modern world, we are living in a completely unhealthy state of constant comparison and competition. Everybody is seeking medals and trophies. We are living in an environment that keeps telling us that if we are not the winners, than we are nothing.
Sadly, instead of celebrating their achievement as the second best in a tournament, I’ve heard them saying, “To finish in second place is a great defeat, a great embarrassment. We can’t celebrate that we are the first among the losers.”
Isn’t this sad?
I think it is very, very sad!
It is unfortunate that we have so little self-esteem and so little knowledge of who we really are — eternal spiritual beings having temporary human experiences — that we need to derive our sense of worth from constantly comparing ourselves with others. The focus seems to be always on the outside, not on the inside. It seems that we are in a constant battle to have more and be better than someone else. This is such a common obsession in our days that we don’t even notice the level of absurdity and insanity it has reached.
Everything triggers competition. Everything becomes an opportunity to prove that I am better, that my belongings are better, that my team is better, that my school is better, that my culture is better, that my religion is better, that my race is better, that my ideology is better, that my political party is better, that my country is better, that my tribe is better, that my gang is better, that my ideas and initiatives are better.
Everything becomes a dispute to prove that we are right and you are wrong, we are good and you are bad, we are strong and you are weak, we are intelligent and you are stupid, we are winners and you are losers, we are superior and you are inferior.
These are all activities that stem from the ego. The more one engages in them, the stronger the damaging grip of the ego becomes.
It seems that a great number of adults — sometimes it seems to be the majority — got stuck in the muddy field of the insecurities of their youth, unable to move on, grow, evolve. Every situation becomes an opportunity to put down, make fun of, and torment others. Every situation is used to belittle and bully, and squash someone else’s self-esteem. But the truth is that making others feel inferior does not makes us superior; it only makes us despicable.
“Give all to the winner and nothing to the loser! Give all to the strongest and nothing to the weakest!”
Many of those who we admire, or have admired in the past — the tough competitors, the overachievers, the hard workers (or should we say, workaholics?), the tough talking political leaders — have proven to be sick, unethical, egoistic individuals obsessed with winning at all costs, no matter who they would hurt on the race to the top. Lance Armstrong, for instance, is one of many who come to mind.
But where does this need to prove that I am better — that my team, country, gang is better — comes from? Where this obsession with competition and winning at all costs comes from? Does it come from the culture? From the upbringing? From the family environment? From the demands and pressures of competitive sports in early age? From exacerbated fanaticism, nationalism? What makes people so unsure of their worth and so insecure that they feel that they need to prove their value all the time?
Maybe this need to be on the top, to feel important and significant, to prove that one is better, actually comes from years and years of exposure to conditional love; poor, unskilled parenting, marked by abundant criticism and limited praising. Children learned that they would only receive love and admiration if their performance and behavior was pleasing to someone else. This generated beings greatly dependent of external approval.
Maybe those seeking medals and trophies are weak, tormented souls who did not receive enough love, who were bullied when they were younger, who are insecure and unsure of their worth, and therefore live in constant need of accolades, praise, and external approval. They were not loved. They never felt that they were good enough. They came to believe that in order to be loved — in order to be worth of receiving love — they need to prove that they are “someone,” that they are “better.”
“I deserve respect. Look at me. Look at all that I have done. Look at all that I have accumulated. Look at my success. Look how important I am. Look how knowledgeable I am. Look at my credentials. You must come to me. You must listen to me. You must worship me. You must follow me.” Those are the messages these insecure souls are constantly emitting. Their egos crave praise and recognition.
So, while one possibility is that those are individuals who never felt approved or admired, the other possibility is that they have received so much praise when they were young that they became addicted to it, and are in constant crave for more; they need to be the center of attention, and when they are not, they feel deprived.
It’s all very complicated…
I believe that the same need for love, attention, and praise is felt by some of the figures who seek positions of power and authority. Haunted by their insecurities, they become so obsessed in proving their value and superiority that they don’t care about others. They need to be in control. No one else’s ideas are good, only theirs. No one can initiate anything without first getting their approval. Teamwork is good as long as the team is working for them and in their projects. Does a boss come to mind? A friend? Maybe a dictator?
Hitler is an example of one of those who, in his pursuit to prove that he, his ideas, his “race,” his country were “better than,” brought great pain and suffering to the world. He influenced and created hordes of insensitive abusers and mobs of assassins who used violence to dominate and conquer without care for others. And, who knows? Maybe he himself experienced abuse when he was young and defenseless. It seems that the fearful and the weak are in a constant struggle to gain and exert power and control. But they lack the skills, the wisdom, the compassion, to properly do so.
This is all very sad… all those tormented souls, those insecure egomaniacs, trying to prove their worth, looking externally for approval and love, creating their own cliques to feel that they belong, seeking to exert power and control to prove their importance, looking for enemies and heralding that it is “us versus them” to justify their existences, and pestering the lives of others… What a pitiful existence!
I invite you to engage is some inner investigation and ask yourself what is going on?
I invite you to recognize your ugly ego at work, seeking approval and admiration.
I invite you to gently humble yourself, turn around, and focus on generously giving of yourself to others.
I invite you to go beyond love of team, love of family, love of country, love of gang.
I invite you to open your heart, love yourself deeply, and then love everyone.
I invite you to create an opening and find common ground so you can come to that place where you are able to love your enemies.
I invite you to recognize that we don’t need to compete so fiercely, and that we would do much better cooperating with one another.
Observe how people behave in the aftermath of calamities, and see the goodness that exudes when people are selflessly helping people. What a wonderful feeling this is! Those are evolved human beings, communicating with each other, and working together for the common good. These are not inflated egos in need of power and accolades. What matters is working together to alleviate someone else’s pain and suffering. They don’t seek external approval and admiration. The approval that really matters is the one found inside oneself.
Do you still need some competition? OK. I challenge you to compete with yourself. Strive to be the most selfless and collaborative, and the least competitive, individualistic, egoistic, and selfish human being on the face of this planet ever. Here’s a good goal to strive for. Dedicate your existence to take care of those who need the most, and be the best that you can be at it.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou
It may be difficult for many to understand, but as part of my reflection about the connection between giving and receiving, I often think about the gift of joy that the team that loses gives to the team that wins. Maybe it’s just me, but think about it.
There’s no giving without receiving.
“In the end, it doesn’t matter how many medals and trophies, or how many titles and belongings you may have been able to accumulate. What really matters is how you treated others, and what you did for them, especially those who needed the most.”
If you want to explore this further, I invite you to read
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