The religion of competition

Over the last few months, I have been listening to the Jocko Podcast with Jocko Willink. He is a retired Navy Seal who has made a career out of teaching leadership skills.

I scrolled through the list of podcasts that he has and found an interview with Rickson Gracie. Rickson helped popularize Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the United States.

During the interview, Rickson related how he learned Jiu-Jitsu. He was one among many brothers and cousins. His father would bring him to the academy where he was exposed to Jiu-Jitsu. His father never pressured him, though. Instead, His father, Helio, just wanted the kids to have fun with it. They learned along the way, but weren’t put into competition more serious situations until much later.

Rickson contrasted that with how children are learning Jiu-Jitsu today. Their parents put pressure on them to be competitive. They want them to win. They are tough on their kids when they are just beginning. Rickson commented that the parents are trying to put their own aspirations onto their children. Rickson says this isn’t healthy. The kids will learn to hate Jiu-Jitsu.

Instead, he offered that even adults should simply learn body dynamics and awareness for the first year. They should work with a partner, but not in competition. That way, the academies can retain a greater number of practitioners.

This got me to thinking. It isn’t just Jiu-Jitsu that brings out a competitive spirit in people. It happens in little league. It happens in Youth soccer. It happens in cheer and gymnastics. Parents pressure their kids beyond their psychological ability. It happens in school, too. The demands placed upon children stunt their psychological growth. They come to believe that they are only worth something if they are achieving. They come to believe that their parents will only love them if they succeed.

Back to Rickson. When he started competing in Jiu-Jitsu, his father told him, “If you win, I will give you a gift. If you lose, I will give you two gifts!”. Rickson learned compassion and kindness from his father. He learned that His father loved Him no matter what. He learned the meaning of unconditional love.

And, he competed without the toxic pressure of a parent’s unfulfilled dreams.

You may have had a parent (or parents) like this. They demanded too much of you. They withheld approval if you didn’t achieve. Your relationship with them was conditional. And now, it is non-existent.

It is not the same for your relationship with God. That relationship is not conditioned on your behavior, achievements or success. It doesn’t depend on the number of awards or how you “punished” the other team.

Your relationship with God the Father is founded on Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son. The truth is, we were born failures. We were conceived in sin. Before God, we were not just losers, but enemies.

So, God sent His only Son to become man. Jesus was given one mission; to save sinners. He didn’t come to bolster your weaknesses so that you could achieve and success. He came to live and die for your sin. He came for your failures. He came for your disappointments. He came for your losses. And Jesus went to the cross carrying all of them.

Then, He was crucified. God the Father took out all His wrath on our sin upon His own Son. Jesus was punished for the sin of the world. And, looking upon the cross, Jesus looked like the biggest loser in the history of the world. The God who was crucified? The God put to death by men? The God who gave up His life for the under-achieving failures of the world?

You bet!

But, though His cross looked like defeat, it actually was the greatest victory in human history. There, lifted up in humiliating defeat was Jesus Christ victoriously paying for the sin of the world. There He was dying your death. There He was, defeating the Devil who is the accuser.

He died and was placed into a tomb.

But even the tomb didn’t have the final victory. On the third day, Jesus Christ rose from death. The great Defeated was now the greatest victor ever.

And, He gave you this victory freely. You didn’t have to train for it. You didn’t have to maintain your motivation or keep hydrated. Jesus won. His victory over sin and death is now your victory over sin and death.

It was washed over you in the waters of your baptism.

And if you find yourself as the competitive parent of a child, Jesus is your savior, too. Your savior from having to fulfill unrealized dreams through your children. Your savior from the damage you have done to your kids. Jesus Christ tells you now, “You are forgiven.”

You have been set free. Set free even from the competition religion.

Now go and live in the Victory Christ has won for you and your family.