#tbt – Compare and Despair

Nancy Kerrigan courtesy Flickr user Gianluca Platania

Nancy Kerrigan courtesy Flickr user Gianluca Platania

On January 6, 1994 – about a month before the Winter Olympics were to begin in Lillehammer, Norway – Shane Stant walked into Cobo Arena in Detroit and waited, weapon in hand. His target was Nancy Kerrigan: 1992 Olympic bronze medallist, favorite to win gold at the American national championship and Olympics, and overall American sweetheart. She had just finished practice and was heading back to her locker when disaster (i.e. Stant) struck.

We don’t need to rehash all the details of the saga, though Bleacher Report has an interesting long-read if you want to hear from the hitman, Stant, as well as the lawyers in the case (note to future criminals: do not throw away incriminating evidence in a restaurant’s dumpster!). The story fills in blanks from the attack in Detroit to the messy court case to the underwhelming finale in Lillehammer to celebrity boxing.

20 years later, I still ask myself, “What drives someone to pay $6500 to eliminate a rival?” An answer might come from Rev. James Martin, SJ of “The Colbert Report” who reminds me that comparisons with colleagues and competitors can only make me miserable because my own mixture of good and bad is compared to (what I think is) another person’s awesome, perfect, and exceptional characteristics. “She’s smarter than me!” “He’s more buff than me!” Or maybe for Tonya Harding, “She’s a better skater than me!”

If I add a pinch of jealousy and a dash of ambition to this comparison concoction, then I begin to play with a volatile mixture that can corrode my heart and damage my relationships. “Oh, she thinks she’s smarter than me? I’ll show her…” “Oh, he thinks he stronger than me? I’ll show him…” “Oh, she’s a better skater than me? I’ll show her…” It seems that when I am motivated to better a foe, I miss my own gifts and talents. My own happiness depends solely on defeating the competition by any means necessary. Compare and despair becomes compare and destroy, but inevitably the person destroyed is myself. It was such unhealthy comparisons that led a healthy competition between two incredibly hard-working, dedicated, athletic, and gifted women into one of the ugliest episodes in Olympic history.

So that gives me an idea. New Year’s is a time for making resolutions, for making myself a better person. Maybe this year though I don’t need to be better than someone else, just a better me. My New Year’s Resolution? Try not to compare my work and life to others’ work and life situations. Anyone out there wish to join in with me?

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Nancy Kerrigan image courtesy Flickr user Gianluca Platania

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