Yesterday I introduced the first aspect of Rene Girard’s thought. As humans, we instinctively learn through imitation. We do not merely imitate behaviors but we also imitate desire. We learn to desire the things that those around us desire. Inevitably, we’re competing over the object of that desire.
Take, for instance, two siblings. Siblings inherently compete for parental attention and love. Wherever that desire begins, we all want the love and attention of our parents and this shared desire leads to what we typically refer to as “sibling rivalry”. We want the same thing and so we compete for it, perhaps believing there isn’t enough to go around.
From an early age, our shared desires teach us to be in competition with each other. This forms a cycle of competition based on our various shared desires that is very difficult to break.
I can remember feeling in conflict with my siblings. My sister was a great athlete and I was anything but. I remember my father spending hours working with her on her pitching. I was jealous. I wanted what she got. Ultimately, my father spent all kinds of time with me doing other things and I was very lucky, but the nature of the rivalry told me that I should get not only my portion but her portion too. This makes it very difficult to be a family!
We desired the same thing and that put us in competition. Competition in relationship rarely leads to positive things. In fact, we’re set up from an early age to hurt each other because we’re so hard wired to compete over our desires. We are learning how to be violent to each other from the first moment we have instincts. Because this is so deeply ingrained in us, it is very hard to be converted to another way of seeing or being. One that transcends competition and invites us to care for each other so that we all can benefit.
More to come tomorrow….