Minor League Baseball can breed this awkward team dynamic where everyone's individual pursuit of the Big Leagues secretly but not-so-secretly trumps the overall performance of the team.
Sadly (but truthfully), this can cause players to struggle with the success of their own teammates (especially those who play the same position). And so, even though your teammate's success will help the overall performance of the team, it can also be seen as a potential threat to your individual pursuit of being the next guy who gets called up to the Big Leagues.
But honestly, who likes being the guy who struggles with the success of his peers?
Not only is this incredibly selfish; it is also self-defeating.
Such a scenario puts you at the mercy of conditions out of your control and places more pressure on your own personal performance. You end up cultivating an environment in your soul that harbors bitterness, resentment, insecurity and all sorts of jealousy. And then once this happens, gossip and pity-parties become your desperate method for regaining some control over the situation.
Nobody wants to become the former professional player who finds ways to talk about how he should have been in the Big Leagues instead of that other guy who’s still playing.
If this is where you’re heading or where you already find yourself, there is hope, but it will require a sincere desire and a definitive decision to change.
If you’re willing to change, the following three principles can get you out of a bitterness funk and help put you on the path to celebrating the success of others.
1. Admit Your Struggle to Someone You Trust
Yes, this is about as basic as it gets, but this is necessary for any change to take place. There is a reason Alcoholics Anonymous begins their recovery program with this same principle. Admitting that you have a problem weakens that problem’s control over you. It takes the monster off your back and places him right out in front of you where you can see him and all his ugly features. The people around you are no longer your enemy; only this monster.
Find someone to share your secrets with and someone who doesn’t add fuel to your fire. Find someone willing and able to keep you accountable to change. This can be a mentor, counselor, pastor, family member or even just a close friend.
Admit that you struggle with the success of others. Admit your bitterness, resentment, insecurity and jealousy. Acknowledge the pity-party that you are still throwing for yourself, and that gossip has become your coping mechanism.
There is nothing else to accomplish here except unpacking the backpack of bitterness that you’ve been carrying around and then spreading all of its contents out on the table in front of you. The strength to change starts with sucking it up and being real about your weaknesses with someone you can trust.
2. Learn to Love Even If You Don’t Feel Like It
Self-centeredness is what keeps bitterness towards others alive. The best way to cut the supply line of bitterness is to think less about yourself by spending more time looking for ways to love others.
We will never become selfless by simply trying not to be selfish. It is proven science that our brains respond more effectively to positive goals than negative goals. Therefore, we must focus on something we want to do instead of dwelling on the thing that we are trying not to do.
And so the best way to overcome the habits of jealousy, resentment and gossip is to begin the new habit of looking for ways to love others even if you don’t feel like it. Let random acts of kindness become your new hobby and part of your daily routine.
Avoid the trap of assuming you must feel love for someone before you can show love to them. Love is an action first. The feelings may or may not follow.
C.S. Lewis puts it this way:
“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”
This can be a turning point in our struggle because it gives us a new goal that is entirely in our hands and not dictated by our circumstances or the performance of others. Many of us need to get over ourselves and give more of ourselves to others.
One of life’s greatest secrets is the way that a life of self-denial in service to others mysteriously leads to more self-fulfillment than the other kinds of success that we spend so much time pursuing.
3. Empower; Not Power
Who doesn’t want to make it to the pinnacle of their profession and experience the rush of being a superstar and the wealth and luxury that come with it?
I’m not delusional. Becoming a Major League ballplayer can bring all sorts of joy and excitement for those who have put so much time and hard work in the pursuit of their dream. And we should all strive to be excellent at what we do. But if we want freedom from having to have these things in order to be happy, we need to take our new habit of loving others to the next level.
Instead of having to be the guy with more power and popularity than others, what if we were a guy who empowers others instead? What if we became the guy who's greatest value to the team cannot be quantified on a stat sheet?
True leadership isn't a matter of being better than everybody else but rather being someone who makes everybody else better. If you really want to cut bitterness off at the roots then embrace being the guy who makes everyone around you better instead of the guy who has to be better than everyone around you.
And so, if you ever find yourself fighting off the bitterness monster that seems to thrive in highly competitive professions, be real about your bitterness, begin a new habit of doing random acts of kindness for others and become the guy who makes your environment and everyone around you better.
We should all be striving to succeed at what we do, but along the way we should be secure enough to celebrate the success of others too.