I had an epiphany when I was visiting my brother and his family in Auburn, Alabama. Rob’s oldest son, Brad, invited me to play Frogger – a video game. I’d never played it before, but it sounded fun. I really enjoy both my nephews, Brad and Max, and if they invited me to something, I wanted to be game to try it.
Brad told me how to play the game and what the goal was, and we started. It basically involves trying to get your frog across the street – avoiding trucks and other deadly pitfalls along the way. Apparently, the idea is to reach the goal first which translates into two aims – reaching the goal and preventing the competition from getting there before you.
Not being a very good multitasker, it didn’t take me long to realize that I was over my head. This is when I discovered something amazing about myself! I am probably one of the most competitive people I know – I just don’t like myself very well when I’m being competitive. As the game progressed, I found myself increasingly tempted to leap off the floor and strangle Brad. Only two things prevented me from doing so – I really like Brad and my knees don’t leap off the floor as easily as they used to. It was kind of a toss-up as to which reason was paramount, but I was surprised when I started growling!
Brad was having a lot of fun pushing my frog into the paths of taxis and cars and the more fun he was having, the more he laughed. The more he laughed, the more I growled. I don’t know if he realized how close he was to death, but I thought I’d better stop playing the game before my knees decided that I could crawl over to strangle Brad.
In looking back over my life, I can see this character trait in evidence – back into grade school. We used to play baseball on the playground. I’m really surprised that I didn’t use the bat to tap my tennis shoes when it was my turn at bat or maybe even to point out the direction the ball would take once I hit it. I’ve never believed in false modesty.
Unfortunately, when I started to develop in seventh grade, I gained more “wind resistance” and didn’t run as fast. Actually, my muscles decided they’d rather sit and read a good book rather than run around and develop. My competitive streak, however, kept developing – it just shifted into another arena.
We had a roller-skating party for a church youth program. There were a lot of kids there at the local roller-skating rink. Somehow, I had decided that, for the girls to like me, I needed the guys to like me. I determined that I would skate with all the guys and would then be popular with everyone. Needless to say, that little plan fell flat on its face – that’s what happens when you start with a false assumption! I really had a great group of friends. I don’t know why I thought I needed to be liked by everyone. I hadn’t yet learned that, when you try to please everyone, everyone loses!
When the party was over, I had met my goal – if you figured that being in the same room qualified as “skating with” someone. It was a total fiasco! I decided to focus on something else – like maybe my school work!
I found myself cheating at solitaire! I couldn’t cheat at games where I played with other people because they would catch me. What does that say about my self-awareness that I didn’t catch myself cheating at solitaire? It was a sad state of affairs – totally!
When I found that old demon, competitiveness, raising its head with my nephew, I realized I needed to do something about it. Some people can handle competition. It’s kind of like alcohol. Unfortunately, I can handle alcohol better than I can handle competition. I can now say that I am in recovery. I can turn my back on sports games, and I’ve found ways to back out of any competition. I’d rather throw the game than compete against anyone. Well, except for solitaire. I still cheat there!