My trophy collection had a special level all its own on the shelves that stood in the corner of my room. I was proud of winning the spelling bee and of being No. 1 in my classes. And I certainly loved the trophies that came with those honors.
Being the best was important to me. I liked being recognized by my teachers. It made me feel smart. And special. My sister used to joke, "First is the worst, second is the best." But nothing could convince me that there was anything good about being less than No. 1.
Soon, though, I began to see that caring so much about being the best was making me think thoughts about other people that weren't so nice.
I noticed that I was feeling sad or jealous or even angry when other kids came up with a really good answer or shared a cool idea. Often, when that happened, I'd find myself thinking, "Why didn't I think of that?" Then, I'd either get mad at myself, or feel jealous that another student was so smart. Or both.
I knew I shouldn't be feeling or thinking this way. But I didn't know how not to.
Then I was assigned to work on a project that I cared more about than anything else I'd ever worked on before. I'd had some great ideas and some neat experiences that made me the right person for the job. And I had a good partner who also had lots to share.
There was a problem, though, and this was it: Because I always wanted to have the right answer and the best answer and to know exactly the way that things should be done, I started not getting along with my partner very well. At first, I didn't even realize what was going on. I just thought we were having some disagreements and that was that. But when things got really tense and unhappy, I knew I needed to pray. That's when God told me it was time to make a change.
One of the things I love about God is that God is Love itself. God doesn't see us as bad or as mistakemakers. But He does love us into seeing ourselves the way He made us - as good and kind and appreciative. So in this case, I didn't feel God was accusing me of doing anything wrong. I just heard Him tell me that He made me loving and that it was more important to love than it was to always have the right or best answer.
God also told me something else. He told me that if He had needed only me and my ideas, then He would have made only me.
But God is infinite, and that means He needs to express Himself in infinite ways. So everyone is special and valuable. Everyone has something to contribute. And the best part is that because God gives us each something unique to share, we aren't in competition. The way God made me to express Him is different from the way He made you to express Him, but these ways are equally beautiful and equally good. I like the way the Bible puts this: "There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification" (I Cor. 14:10).
As I continued to pray, two words that became important to me were cooperation and collaboration. I started to see that it was actually good that I didn't personally have all the answers because then there would never be any way for me to learn or grow.
I also realized that one of my favorite things in the world - music - relies on those two words. There would be no music without many different notes with many different sounds working together. And there would be no orchestra without lots of different instruments not competing, but collaborating, to create harmony.
Hearing these messages from God really changed me. I stopped focusing on being the best and started focusing on loving more - loving and valuing other people and their contributions. This love healed my troubled relationship with my partner on that project. And now we get along really well and have fun working together.
I know all this is because I've learned to thank God for loving us enough to give us each something special to offer. And guess what? I discovered that understanding God's love for everyone is worth more than all those trophies combined.
And God saw every thing
that he had made, and, behold,
it was very good.