The highly anticipated Olympic games in Tokyo has concluded. It definitely had some memorable moments. A year delay probably added to the anticipation. History was being written before our eyes, and stories are already being told of these games. One night as I was scrolling through numerous channels that showed different Olympic events, I stumbled across an amazing display of athleticism, the men’s high jump.
There were a bunch of high-caliber athletes competing for the gold medal, but the night belonged to Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy. Each took turns jumping over a horizontal pole set at specific heights. Their passion was evident as they expressed themselves after completing each jump. Now imagine this; both men launched their entire bodies over heights ranging from 7.19 feet - 7.78 feet.
These two athletes continued to push each other to their limits. One would “set the bar” so to speak, and the other would complete the challenge. The final jump of the night was at the height of 7.84 feet. That’s 9 inches taller than the infamous basketball player, Shaquille O’Neal! The final moments of the event were incredibly suspenseful. Both athletes missed their first 2 attempts at this Olympic record height. The final jump for Barshim had him crashing into the pole. A round of applause for his attempt followed a look of disappointment. Next up, Tamberi got the crowd into the moment by getting them to cheer him on with a synchronous clap. But to his disappointment, he too would end up crashing into the pole.
Then came the defining moment of the night. They both approached the judge who notified them that a “jump off” was an option for the Gold Medal. This is where Barshim said five-words that I would never forget. “Can we have two golds?” The judge confirmed that this was a possibility, and it changed the tone of the night. Barshim embraced Tamberi, to which Tamberi would let out a scream of joy. They had both won.
There is much competition in sports, yet it seems that life is full of competition as well. A competitive attitude can push an individual beyond limits they could ever imagine. But is competition always a positive thing? Paul writes a letter to the church in Philippi:
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
According to this passage, one can conclude that while competition may not be a bad thing, it is important to understand your motives. Are you selfless in the way you act? Are you exhibiting humility? Are you watching out for others and not just yourself?
It’s a wonderful thing to be challenged, and to grow. A competitive spirit can help push us to abilities we didn’t know we had. On the other hand, there has to be a balance. It makes me wonder about the two athletes in the story. What would push both athletes who have worked their entire lives for this moment, only to have peace about the competition ending in a tie? What is it that made them okay with sharing in the gold medal spotlight? Can there truly be two winners? The beautiful answer in this scenario is a resounding, “YES!”
This is also true in life outside of sports. Are there times where we are selfishly competitive? Are there scenarios that need adjusting in our lives? Can there be two winners in a heated debate with a friend? Can there be two winners with family members who keep comparing themselves to each other? Can there be two winners when we are competing for one’s attention? There can’t always be situations in life where everyone wins. But perhaps as we explore what it means to be a Christian, win-win cases could be more common. As Christians we must look inward, and question our motives. Only then can there be that occasional win for two.