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Reflection: King of the Anthill

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It often seems as if the less we have, the more ferociously we protect it.

In Road Rage Incidents, people will kill each other over a parking spot.

In families, lifelong feuds come from perceived childhood slights.

Gangs go to war over control of a neighborhood that neither of them own..

In school, on jobs, and in organizations from sports teams, to social clubs, to churches, people will lie, cheat, steal, bully, manipulate, and connive, just to be the top dog among ten people.

Or three.

None of it gets you ahead in life. You’re not gunning for a promotion. You’re not positioning yourself for a scholarship. You just have the satisfaction of being better than Dave.

And if that’s all you’ve got, you will fight for it.

Wherever people gather, someone will be tempted to improve their position at their neighbor’s expense.

We’re all trying to be king of the anthill.

It is both understandable and absurd.

Poverty breeds desperation. If I have ten dollars to my name, I will probably fight harder to protect it than the person who has ten million. To them, the ten is nothing. To me, it’s everything.

On the other hand, I’m ready to kill someone over ten dollars. It’s an amount I could earn pretty quickly, or even find on the street, And both my life, and theirs, are worth far more than that.

The less powerful we feel, the more viciously we lash out at perceived threats.

Many of us are in death battles to be the king of the anthill, or the queen bee of a tiny hive.

And sure, that puts you over thousands of other bees. But your destiny may be far greater than being the head bee.

The issue here is jealousy. And jealousy is a killer.

The Bible abounds with accounts of the catastrophic consequences of jealousy.

Cain kills his brother Abel because Abel follows God’s instructions to offer his first fruits and receives God’s approval.

Jacob spends part of his life fearing he will be murdered by his brother Esau after finagling to steal their father Isaac’s blessing.

Rachel and Leah are sisters jealous of each other over Jacob’s affection, and Leah’s fertility.

These stories, however, have consequences like control of Kingdoms, lifelong relationships and the favor of God.

What most of us face day to day is petty.

Small stuff.

And we could easily let it slide.

As Chris Rock once said, to the man who goes to the movies and someone steps on his foot, “why spend the next 20 years in jail because someone smudged your puma?”

Our conflicts are rarely worth the consequences of our wrath.

The metaphor of crabs in a barrel notes that crabs can be boiled in an open pot because any crab trying to escape will be pulled down by the others. And people in community do the same thing, often expending their greatest energy policing the efforts of the one who tries to rise up out of the pot.

Sure, you might become the king.

We you could rise up to be the queen.

You could dominate that barrel, and make sure everybody knows it.

But the king of the anthill still lives in a mound of dirt.

The queen bee is still stuck in honey.

And the toughest crab, will still get boiled.

And maybe, just maybe, we’ve been made for more.


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