Healthy competition is about how I empower others, not how I promote myself above others
Rather than dwell on the confusion around the question of how can one are three and three are one, let us focus, rather, on the hospitality of Community, where the emphasis is on empowering each person in the community, rather than pushing for individual glory.
In the First Reading we, perhaps, take for granted how God is described: ‘Lord, Lord, a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness.’ But, for centuries before this, the name of God has never been uttered out of reverence, awe and a little fear.
So, now we know who God is: and this is reinforced in the Gospel, where it is declared that Jesus came not to condemn but to redeem every person.
At a big stadium some years back, a large athletics competition was happening between many schools. The competition was fierce in the 1,000 metre sprint. Unfortunately, in the last 100 metres the person coming second tripped over. Instead of continuing, the girl in front stopped and turned back to help up the other runner. Together they walked to the finish line. When the other runners saw what had happened, they all joined arms together and everyone crossed the finish line at the same time. In the stadium, everyone went quiet for a moment, before everyone stood up and applauded.
Truly, the Trinity opens up, to us, the reality that God wants us all to be winners together. God has “turned back” to walk with us so many times in the history of the world.
God is a community of three Divine Persons who keeps inviting us to join in.
I think this is a really important point because we live in a world where strong competition and individualism seem to be taking over. Don’t get me wrong, when we are younger, competition is a healthy thing that helps children and youth to push themselves further, as they look for recognition and approval: up to age 25-30, we build up our self-esteem and a healthy ego.
But beyond 30, we must start to enabling others to win, if we want to create a healthy community for our families. As Frank Pittman notes in his brilliant book on masculinity, Man Enough (1993): “Competitors, who are always setting up contests and keeping score, lead stressful lives and may have trouble relaxing. And they might be obnoxious.”
Pittman also notes that an excessive competitive spirit in men often stems from their not feeling blessed by their fathers as boys: sub-consciously they hope dad will be impressed and bless them. Perhaps this is true, also, for women?
It’s difficult for us to welcome others, or be welcomed into a community, if we always want to be the best; because the inference is that: you are not as good as me! It’s also impossible to have a happy and healthy community without forgiveness: which is within our ability after receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
In a true community we talk about equality of dignity and an equitable distribution of needs. We create a structure so that each member of the community has something to contribute.
Especially amongst men, we must create a healthy masculinity where competition is aimed at empowering others, rather than unchecked individualism. We need each other to succeed and to be medically healthy.
From as early an age as possible, it’s important we try to imitate the Holy Trinity by regularly congratulating younger people, and even saying the words: “I’m proud of you!” This will require patience and lots of mercy/ forgiveness to each other when we make mistakes.
This Feast deliberately uses the word Holy in order to express that the Trinity of father, Son and Holy Spirit is very different to typical human communities we see today. The Holy Trinity acts as a model, a goal for us to evolve into communities where we consult, listen and act in a united fashion, always motivated by a desire to empower the other.
May God encourage us in this work of evolution by helping us experience the joy we cause in others. For those of us, who never felt blessed by our mum or dad, become for others what we wished for ourselves.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI