Cheering & Challenging

I am officially a fan of American Ninja Warrior.  We picked up the season part-way through, but watched the season finale of the finals in Las Vegas aired last night on television.

I can’t seem to help myself.  It’s exhilarating!  It makes my hands sweat just watching.  I mean, I don’t plan to compete myself, but I am mesmerized by the level of competition… how long and hard these people train… the unbelievable feats they make their bodies accomplish.

Then there are their personal back stories.  Some of these people have overcome extreme life situations to compete at this level.  Some are facing tough situations even as they compete.

But what I love most is the way they both challenge and cheer for each other at the same time.  Each athlete goes out there trying to not only do their own personal best, but outdo every other athlete competing.  They are competing to win.  And each one who does better, challenges those coming behind them to press past that mark.

Yet there is no smack-talk between competitors.  It’s often difficult to determine whether they want to win more themselves, or want one of their competitors to win. While waiting to make their attempt at a course, or having made their attempt… successfully or unsuccessfully… they stand on the sidelines cheering on the very competitors trying to beat them.  Most of the competitors have a shirt or symbol that represents them, and it’s a common sight to see the competitors wearing the shirt or symbol of the person making their attempt at the moment. They stand on the sidelines cheering loudly, giving advice, telling them how much time they have left.  When a competitor succeeds, they roar with excitement, jumping up and down, cheering loudly, high-fiving and hugging them.  When a competitor fails, they moan and hug them, speaking words of encouragement about how far they got and how they will succeed the next time.

To quote the old song, “And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”
Why can’t we all live like that?  What’s wrong with pushing each other to excel by our own efforts at excellence… while at the same time cheering on the very people who are competing alongside us?  I’ll tell you what’s wrong with that… NOT A THING!

That’s the way we should live.  Just because some people are self-centered and think life has to be win-lose, doesn’t mean we have to sink to that level.  The Apostle Paul challenged the believers at Thessaloniki to cheer each other on… to encourage each other as they each strove to do the best they could in living lives that honored Christ.

We can do that.  We should do that.

We should each press to do the best we can.  We should try to set the standard higher.  We should work, and train and compete in such a way that we plan to win.  We should show those coming behind us a better way… a simpler way… a clearer way.

And we should also cheer for those competing alongside us.  We should cheer for the person who gets healed, even if we’re not healed yet.  We should cheer for the person who gets an “A” on the test whether we do or not.  We should cheer for the person who creates something awesome… or breaks a record… or achieves their dream… whether we do or not.

To compete against does not have to mean that we cannot also cheer for.  It doesn’t have to be win-lose… It can be win-win!  This is not something restricted to American Ninja Warriors.  It is a culture they have created.  And we can create it where we live… work… serve… shop… IF we want to.

Last thought… you know what else I noticed about these athletes?  Because of this kind of culture they’ve created, there are lots of smiles. And when they fail to complete a course, because there are smiles, and support, and a cheering section, they simply dry themselves off and determine to do better next time.

What a concept!  I plan to live like that!  Will you join me?

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