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Competing or Cooperating?

Updated: Mar 24, 2020

We all have more questions than answers when it comes to this COVID-19 crisis now circling our globe and impacting our own activities of daily living.

When such occasions arise in life, we may be far better off if we change the questions to ones we really can answer. Personally. Within our own minds.

Like what?

Well, how about starting with this one: when faced with a crisis, am I better off competing against others to prove myself right and show that I am better than others? Or am I better off cooperating with others and working together to serve the common good, even if that means compromise?

The most basic reality when any crisis visits our own doorstep is this: we cannot control what happens to us. We can only control how we respond to what happens to us. And the response we choose will then influence (NOT control BUT influence) what happens to us later. We don’t have unlimited choices, but what choices we do have will have very different consequences to come in even our own lives.

Those of us in America have a culture that renders permission to be selfish. To place “me first.” To compete. To win. And to feel proud of our victories over our competitors. Permission to be distrustful of others. Distrustful of government. Distrustful of authorities. Distrustful of news media. And such permissions strengthen our temptations to then respond to any crisis by becoming more competitive. More oppositional. More defiant of systemic rules and regulations.

So in answering our own private question of whether to respond to today’s crisis by being more competitive or more cooperative with others, we have to factor in the temptation we have from our culture of rugged individualism. Our culture may encourage competition as our first response, our first option, our default setting.

The problem with a crisis of this global proportion, however, is that it trickles down into so many levels and we cannot respond at only one level. If, for example, I choose to be cooperative at the national level and stay home more instead of going out in public, I am then going to experience it on a family level and find myself in a crisis at home. If my family or, say, my marriage isn’t used to being at home together this much, we experience this increased closeness as a crisis for which we’re unprepared. Being together 24/7, or close to it, places almost every marital and family unit in a very different level of crisis.

Now what?

Here the temptation to be competitive comes not from our social culture but from our individual personality. Sibling rivalry sets in if there are kids still at home. Marital power struggles set in if both spouses are at home. Temptation arises to compete. To win out. To be right. To be distrustful of others, more oppositional, more defiant, more selfish. And in responding to this current COVID-19 crisis, we have to factor in this temptation as well. Our personalities may encourage competition as our first response, our first option, our default setting.

Selfish competition is always based upon fear, and our faith in fear then triggers our doubt in love. Will I be enough, have enough, get enough, win enough? Call it our universal human fear of scarcity. At every level, crises trigger such fears.

Responding to life’s crises at all levels, then, and the temptations that come for us to be selfishly competitive at each level may require changing our setting. Re-setting our default.

Only it’s not that easy.

Where do I find my “settings” and where do I see “default?” How do I operate this device I call “me?”

My own strong belief is that our “settings” are within our own mind. They are the things we tell ourselves about the world around us and about the things that happen to us. Our “default” pattern of beliefs and behaviors based on what our minds tell us within our “settings” is important. Highly important! It may lead us to respond in competitive ways that then contribute toward future events that will happen to us in the future.

Changing our self-talk, changing our minds, can actually change our default responses to those things that happen to us. For me it’s a matter of accepting that God, through the Holy Spirit, lives within me as a kind of mental health therapist. Offering me ways to love instead of fear. Ways to influence instead of control. Ways to cooperate instead of compete. For me, this indwelling Holy Spirit works with a co-therapist. Jesus Christ. Jesus serves as the example of what the Spirit is telling me. A kind of “do it like this” example of how to cooperate instead of compete. Of how to love instead of fear. Of how to influence instead of control. Of how to sacrifice myself instead of others!

And being here and now in this very moment my internalized God-therapists tell me this: share this idea with others who read my blog. Accept that I have no control over how others choose to respond. Because even this is not about competing to see if I'm right. Or winning. It is only about my sharing an option. And only about my cooperating with others who may, whether in my largest or smallest of social circles, see it all very differently.

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