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James-Bradley

Competing as a Quaker

Competition requires a great deal of hard work and effort. When you begin to compete at a higher level it also takes desire and passion to be a winner at whatever you set your mind to do. Some may argue that competition conflicts with Quaker beliefs, like the testimony of equality, because for every winner there must be at least one loser. However I believe that the concept of equality in a competition is not about the end result and instead about the way in which you carry yourself while you compete.

My personal experience with competition has ranged from athletic competitions to academic debates and elections. As someone who loves competition, both friendly and serious, I have been competing my whole life. In my mind there are two types of competition: friendly competitions, and serious “play to win” competitions. There are many differences between them, but I believe there is one thing that brings them together. This point of connection represents what all competition should be about.

A lot of Quakers would argue that the necessity of having a winner, and thus a loser, is in direct conflict with the testimony of equality. They may think that having a winner means that the loser is not equal and that having no winner at all would solve this problem. I believe that this is simply not what the testimony of equality means in a competition. I believe that as a Quaker it is my responsibility to represent my beliefs in my actions during games or debates, not in the results alone. As an athlete I feel obligated to treat my opponents with respect and to carry myself with integrity before, during, and after games. I cannot control the inevitability of a winner, but I can control my own actions and choices; those are my responsibilities not only as an athlete, but as a member of the Religious Society of Friends.

This year during a close soccer game I had an experience that challenged my ability to represent the Quaker testimonies. Late in the second half, we were down by a goal and a player on the opposing team began to trash talk and tried to push me around. In that moment I wanted nothing more than to push him back, but I didn’t; instead I stayed calm and chose to focus on winning the game. In the end we lost, but I was satisfied with how I had reacted to the situation. I’d rather lose with dignity than win with arrogance.

In life, you will win and you will lose. No one can stop this, and no one can control this whether they like it or not. While I may sound pessimistic, I’m not saying you should just accept this fact. Rather, you should embrace it. Competition has taught me much about myself and my identity. It has shown me where I can grow as a teammate, an athlete, and a Quaker. Competing to win and yet still representing Quaker values is a fine line to walk, but it is a line that becomes easier to walk over time. It is also an especially important line to walk as a young person. Developing the skills to walk this fine line is what I believe Quakerism is about: shining your Light wherever you go. It gives me pride to be able to represent my faith community wherever I go and in all my efforts. Even when George School wins.

Read more: Student Voices Project 2019

James Bradley, Grade 9, Westtown School in West Chester, Pa., member of West Chester Meeting

Posted in: Friendly Competition?, Student Voices Project, Student Voices Project 2019

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