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Varsity Pride

I love Ultimate Frisbee. I know, you’re thinking only blissed out hippies in the park play with Frisbees. However, tossing the disc with barefoot beach bums is a far cry from the intense game of Ultimate Frisbee. Actually it’s not inherently very intense, but I have a gift for turning the most peaceful of games into highly charged competitions. This also creates a perfect atmosphere for exposing sin. And it’s nearly always my own.

If you are on the opposing team and I’m winning, I will kindly remind you of this fact regularly throughout the game. If you’re on my team and we’re losing, I’ll refrain from negative comments but my posture and body language will send the message of total disdain. The only really positive place is if we’re on the same wining team. My pastor once joked that he hated getting up so much that he wasn’t a Christian until 9:00am. I’m not one from 6:30 to 8:30 on Thursday evenings. The list of subtle sins and unloving attitudes that arise during a competitive game is too long to contemplate here. For now we’ll focus on pride.

I categorize pride into two categories, JV and varsity. As the name implies, JV pride is much more common. The difference is in the awareness. With JV pride, the person in question isn’t aware that they appear prideful, however it is quite obvious to everyone else. The guy at the party who makes sure everyone he meets learns about his high paying job. The player who let’s everyone know his pass was perfect, but the receiver made the mistake. The guy sitting two rows up on the plane, yelling into this phone buy 120 shares of XYZ stock. Yes, of course, my portfolio is lacking in pharmaceuticals, etc. Just loud enough for everyone to hear. Complete amateurs.

Varsity pride is so highly developed, the provider (me), is aware of people’s disdain for arrogance. I can see the pride for the mediocre player on the field isn’t working. People can tell that he is trying to look cool. This of course, is unattractive and not at all successful. Realizing this, I take it to the next level and ensure others cannot tell I am trying to impress. Make it natural and effortless. I imagine I am not alone in this skill.

This is so much worse than normal pride because when you commit it, you are consciously aware of your actions. You cannot claim ignorance or simply poor social skills. And worse, often those of us operating in the world of varsity pride are the first to mock those at lesser levels. If anything, we ought to pray for them, because they are not even aware of their sin.

If we stopped here we would have succeeded only in feeling quite terrible about ourselves. Any deliverance of this must come from the power of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts and minds. First, we need to recognize the root of our issue. It’s fairly clear, we derive our sense of worth from the admiration of people. We care too much how people perceive us, what they think of us, if they like us. This is only possible in the void created by tearing down and removing our concern for what God thinks of us. I imagine it as a zero sum equation. The more you care about what people think of you, the less space you have to care what Jesus thinks.

The solution lies in simply reversing the proportion. I’ve found it nearly impossible to have any success in diminishing my pride by dwelling on it. Even the act of praying for less pride instantly conjures up thoughts of intense self focus. Certainly not productive. We will find much more fruit by considering how Christ views us. Take it even a step further and contemplate how Christ views those around you. Whether it is the uncoordinated guy on the field or the loud businessman on the plane, your opinion changes dramatically when you imagine how God sees them.

I’ll keep playing Frisbee. And I’ll continue to struggle with immature attitudes and an over zealous desire to win. But through His grace the Holy Spirit used this silly sport to convict me of a deep sin. I patiently await redemption.


Comment from Nate
Time August 4, 2008 at 10:42 am

Wow, it looks like you pimped your page; nice work!

Comment from scott
Time August 12, 2008 at 8:42 am

So…if I like to switch places to be on your team…does that mean I’m varsity level too? Yeah for redemption and sanctification.

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