Russell and Duenes

Nothing From Rivalry

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“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit.” – Philippians 2:7

My mind somehow locked in on the word “rivalry” in the apostle Paul’s statement above, and I thought, “Have you considered how unbelievable that command is?”

“Nothing from rivalry.”

But my law school gives me a number so that I know my class rank, and I like knowing it. I sit in class, sizing up the others so that I might know where I stand in the pecking order. Everyone knows who made it onto Law Review. Don’t I just love making fine sounding arguments in class, if indeed they are “fine sounding.” They’re all my rivals.

I think of others my age and how they are now likely well into their careers, with steady incomes, and here I am starting over. How can I possibly catch up? Why do I want to catch up?

I must make my points. I must have the last word. I can’t let a bad argument lie. I must be thought smart, or at least, smarter than the next guy. My family must be better. I must be more articulate. Never let something that might reflect negatively on me go unchallenged. Assert thyself!

“Nothing from rivalry!”

I thought of Dallas Willard, who’s brilliant. I remember an interchange he had with a college student once, a student who thought he’d intellectually outflanked Willard. The student was confident, yea, cocky, and remained so even after Willard calmly asked the student if he might answer a question that posed a difficulty for the student’s worldview. The student’s answer was laughable, and yet Dallas did not pull out the intellectual “big guns.” No, he let the student go on his way without any real further challenge, the student remaining confident that he has bested Willard. Willard never lost his cool, indeed, never raised his voice or took a negative tone. I remember being quite struck by this, wanting to emulate it. If a man of Willard’s stature did not need to act out of rivalry with others, why did I think I had to? But I still think I have to, almost all the time. The thought that someone could get one up or one over on me in an area where I feel “c0mpetent,” and that I would let them do so unchallenged, just seems inconceivable. “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb led to slaughter, like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so he did not open his mouth.”

I think there’s much to ponder here.

“Nothing from rivalry”



Written by Michael Duenes

October 31, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Posted in Duenes, Reflections

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