Tuesday, January 5, 2010

One-upmanship


"Anything you can do,

I can do better.
I can do anything

Better than you.
"

I have recently become rather sensitive to a phenomenon of interpersonal interaction that to me now appears so rampant as to demand why it has taken until now for me to become so repulsed by it. As a result, I'm concerned that I might have frequently committed this faux pas without realizing it. It is the practice of offering, unsolicited, an "I'll do you one better" response to just about any comment. Seriously, we humans are so depraved that we instinctively want to add to anyone's news of achievement with "I do more," or "I know someone who does more."

Consider all the ways this type of response gets fit into a conversation:

Comment: "I ran a mile this morning."
Response: "My friend runs three miles every morning."

Comment: "I was glad to complete college."
Response: "I got a 4.0 all through college."

Comment: "My car is pleasant to drive."
Response: "My car blows all others away."

Comment: "I'm glad my children are learning so much."
Response: "My child is an honor student."

Comment: "Our church has about 50 people."
Response: "Our church has 1,000 people."

Comment: "We watch some sports at home on TV."
Response: "The game looked great on our 30 inch, plasma screen in HD."

Comment: "I completed my M.Div at seminary ABC."
Response: "I earned my Th.M. at seminary XYZ."

Comment: "I feel great after losing a little weight."
Response: "I look great after losing more weight."

Comment: "I was glad I found a suitable outfit at WalMart."
Response: "I just went shopping at Saks."

The list could go on and on. I shutter to think how often I have unthinkingly responded with an intuitive one-upmanship without considering the unkind comparisons I was constructing. Before I go trying to help my acquaintances or relatives extract this "sliver" from their eye, I had better make sure I've addressed this "log" in my own eye.

Considering how carnal our comparisons often are, it is no wonder that such responses remain continuing evidence that I'm crooked deep down ("Everyone is crooked deep down" - Derek Webb). Far better would be to respond to others' news with joyful affirmations, such as:

Comment: "I ran a mile this morning."
Response: "Good for you. That's so important for your health."

Comment: "My car is pleasant to drive."
Response: "I imagine that must make your commutes better."

Comment: "I'm glad my children are learning so much."
Response: "They must have good teachers."

Comment: "Our church has about 50 people."
Response: "It must be nice that they all know each other."

Comment: "I feel great after losing a little weight."
Response: "And you look great too."

It is for the sake of manners that I hope to uplift people more this year, and shed the one-upmanship that I so often must spew forth. You have good news? I don't need to "do you one better." I can instead be happy for you in your joy.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

I suffer this depravity myself (obviously, considering recent exchanges). I will endeavor to follow your example and more closely examine my contributions to the "one-up-manship" game.