I took a Sociology class in college. On the first day I walked in already exhausted because it was 9:30 a.m. and I had grown accustomed to not having class until at least 10 a.m. Plus, my 8 a.m. that semester was macroeconomics and it made my brain hurt.
But when my professor walked in I went from exhausted to excited. She had on jeans and a t-shirt, her hair looked like she had just rolled out of bed, she was wearing Chacos (which are sandals reserved for the earthiest of cool kids) and she was singing a Bruno Mars song as she walked to the front of the room.
One day after we had been in the class for a few months she called some of us up to the front. There were some people who talked every day and some people who hardly talked at all (I was in the latter group). She asked us to pick one word to describe the other people up there.
The more opinionated people got words like “smart,” “outspoken,” “loud” and so on. The quieter ones were labeled as “shy,” “quiet,” and one guy called the girl next to me “beautiful” so that was different and a little out of left field. After beautiful boy went our professor laughed and told us we could sit down. Then she went on with the lesson about how it was impossible to judge someone you don’t really know and how it was difficult to do it in one word.
I don’t remember exactly what I got out of that lecture but I do remember going home that weekend and asking my family to pick one word to describe me. They thought about it for all of one millisecond and then my mom said “competitive.”
Now that may not sound like a horrible trait to have. I’ve always been extremely competitive so it wasn’t untrue. I hate to lose. I’m not one of those people who thinks if I played my best or if it was a close game then my effort was good enough. Winning is the goal. Not even just in sports, but in life. I hated when people got better grades than me. I don’t like when people accomplish tasks faster than I can. I don’t even like when people pass me on the interstate because I feel like I’m going too slowly.
So you can see why competitive was the word that came to mind and at first I was pleased with it. I thought, “It could be worse.” They could have said mean or bossy or arrogant or a list of other things that I sometimes am when I am around them. But it also could have been better. They could have said kind or compassionate or loving, because I am also sometimes those things when I am with them.
But even though I am sometimes bossy and sometimes kind, I’m always competitive. That’s how my family saw me. The people who love me most and know me best picked “competitive.”
So what would people who don’t know me that well say?
Would they see me when I am being a good friend and really listening to someone’s problem? Would they see me help a stranger or really try my hardest to be the best person I can be? Or would they hear me say something negative about a friend? Would they see me make a face when someone makes me mad or when I don’t get my way?
Chances are they would see a little of both. If I asked people would probably say I am “sweet” or “nice” or any other generic word that people say when they don’t really know how to describe you.
My professor said it is extremely hard to sum up a person’s character in one word and I agree. When people describe me I want them to think specifically of ten words.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22–23
It would be fine to be thought of as sweet or funny or competitive, but that’s not what I want.
I want to be known as loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and in control of my thoughts, words and actions.
I want people to look at me and see someone who knows and shares the love of God.
Someone who is joyful even when things aren’t going her way because she knows that all things happen in God’s timing. Someone who doesn’t let the things of the world steal her peace but instead helps others find peace in tough situations. Someone who is kind to those who are not always kind to her. Someone who is intentional about being a good person and making good, God-honoring decisions. Someone who never waivers in her faith. Someone who is strong enough to help others who are struggling. Someone who is gentle with her words and who listens to those around her. Someone who watches what she says and is careful about the actions she takes because every action is a representation of God’s love and influence in her life.
Being thought of as competitive is not a horrible thing but there are so many other things I want to be instead.
Editor’s Note: Caitlin is a contributor to this blog, but isn’t the only writer whose words you may see here. To read more posts by Caitlin or to see the other writers, visit the authors’ categories in the menu at the top right corner of the screen.