April, 3, 2017

Competition and Character

by Aubrey Watts

Competition and comparison can often take over our education here at BYU. There are prestigious programs to apply for and generals meant to “weed out” the weak–some people even compare who is taking more credit hours in a semester. It is easy to fall into these patterns, become discouraged and to forget what is actually most important.

The Four Aims of BYU outline that a BYU education ought to be Spiritually Strengthening, Intellectually Enlarging, Character Building, and promote its alumni to Lifelong Learning and Service. I do want to point out that some level of competition is healthy: it can provide an extra motivation to do our best and to be original, but when taken to the extreme, it can be debilitating and toxic. I will be applying to the Graphic Design program this year, and the highly competitive nature of this major has discouraged me at times, but remembering that I am not meant to compare or to race against the skills of others has helped me relax and gain perspective.

In the Gallery, a section is dedicated to Karl G Maeser, the first president of Brigham Young Academy. He was an inspired and inspiring leader–his personality was contagious and he was able to influence countless youth to be more dedicated to lifelong education and to building their character as they learned. He said, “Knowledge is not power unless sustained by character”. When we are able to back our knowledge up by our actions and when we use our knowledge in service of others–that is when our knowledge is a power for good.

I have been reminded with each tour and introduction I give that my education is all about building my character and how my contribution to Zion can become more meaningful. However, education and growth are not meant to be easy. Helen Keller said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” We need to struggle a bit in order to be strengthened and changed.

The importance of developing our character is so evident in the patterns the Lord has set throughout church history. It is even easy to see those patterns in my own personal learning. Education becomes so much more meaningful–and so much less stressful–when I focus less on comparison and competition, and more on how I am becoming the person that the Lord needs me to be.

President Howard W. Hunter — “At the end of your lives you will not be judged by academic success, the degrees or diplomas earned … but rather on the basis of what you have become as persons and what you are in conduct and character.”