“No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” — 1 Corinthians 9:27
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While watching the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, I recall a former athlete bringing up an important point about competition. His words were, “Don’t beat yourself. It’s one thing to be beaten, but don’t beat yourself.”
Any person who has played sports on some level knows that, sometimes, the athlete can be their own worst enemy. It’s not always that the other team or opponent is playing better than you; it’s that you are bringing inevitable defeat on yourself by either your play or your attitude. We’ve all seen situations where it looked like a team or individual was winning handily or at least equally competitive, only to suffer a complete meltdown and eventually lose.
Throughout our lives, we can all think of times or situations where we’ve beaten ourselves and let our circumstances or attitudes break us down in the heat of the moment. We’ve allowed ourselves to get in our own way and hinder our ability to perform freely and confidently. And often, losses or setbacks that resulted from this were even more painful and frustrating than if we’d just been outperformed, because we knew we didn’t give our best. We all can agree there’s a dignity in losing well if we left it all out there and tried our hardest, so it hurts more when we shot ourselves in the foot, so to speak. We knew we could’ve done better and we just fell short.
Whether on the field of play or in the arena of life, it’s important to always go out there with the attitude that you won’t self-sabotage your own success. By developing a healthy mental, emotional and spiritual perspective, as well as training hard in your skills or physical development, there’s a lot you can do to strengthen your outlook and yourself so that you are better prepared for the challenges that life and competition bring your way.
In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul talks about the fact that he works on himself and disciplines himself so that he won’t be a hindrance to his own work by not practicing what he preaches. In either spiritual or physical terms, he wants his life to line up in all aspects because he doesn’t want to disqualify himself from the eternal race.
And the same should be true for each of us. We should want to pay attention to our inner and outer life so that we are not damaging our testimony or our chances of eternal success for the Kingdom by getting in our own way. Or, worse yet, getting in God’s way by letting our doubts, fears, sins or struggles hinder our ability to love, serve and believe the way we should.
God’s forgiveness is there when we fail, and that is a blessing, but we also need to care about the approach we take to competition and to life so that, to the best of our fallible human ability, we do not beat ourselves along the way.
— Katherine Singer
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