Competitive Spirit

trophyHow strong is your competitive spirit? Garrett Gundlach, SJ, considers trophy collections and a recent cut-throat board game night.

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” they say. But that just sounds like another participation trophy to me. It sounds like winning a pity prize simply for showing up, for surviving.

All this is as exhausting as it is egocentric. I want out, but I’m hooked. I cannot be “my best” until I am “the best.” I cannot be good without being perfect, because perfect is often what it takes to win. And with every transition in life comes the same opportunity, the same temptation to win… As I enter into a role of campus ministry and teaching at one of our Jesuit high schools, I’m not asking what it will take to be a “good” campus minister or a “good” first-year teacher, but right away, I’m asking how to be remembered as “the best” campus minister or first-year teacher in recent memory.

I am tired.

But there is an invitation that can help, says Gundlach.


  1. Fr Garrett, I have the same challenging personality! For me, it was debating. I loved it, excelled in it and could debate points even when asked to debate on the other “side”. I was hooked. Trophies and awards made their way to my room. The same with my dancing and swimming-perfection and nothing less was acceptable. I found myself in the deepest depression because I couldn’t keep this up,for long, in the work world. Now I a have a word for what these became-disordered attachments. As I reflect on these, I have found that as I let them each go, I grieve but I also rejoice because I have overcome this barrier and I have more to offer others. Many blessings on your teaching career!

  2. I have often thought of this after I have completed a task. Why do I want to be the best at a task. For me on the way to being the best I can look back and know that, using a basketball metaphor, “I left it all on the court”. I have no regrets about the people I helped along the way. I know that I did my best. I will not feel guilty. Does it mean I was actually the best almost never but sometimes yes. Does it mean I was perfect, no! It just means I did my best but always with the Grace of God, Jesus as my example and the Holy Spirit at my side!


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