As the Olympic Games kick off in Tokyo, Japan, this week, President Russell M. Nelson shared a special message about embodying Olympic cooperation and respect in our everyday lives. He wrote:
Athletes from all over the world have come together in Tokyo, Japan. The Olympic Games will shine a light on athletes and teams demonstrating friendship and respect even as they compete against each other for gold, silver, and bronze medals.
There is a difference, however, between healthy competition and any kind of destructive contention, which the Savior declared was “not of [Him], but is of the devil” (3 Nephi 11:29). On the other hand, friendship and respect can literally be lifesaving.
I was among those who worked to develop an artificial heart-lung machine, which in turn helped in the pioneering of open-heart surgery. There was a great spirit of cooperation and respect among the few of us working in that new area of medical research. We knew that our real competition was against disease and death. Our cooperation in the race to pioneer new medical procedures literally saved lives.
It is possible to disagree with others without violating the Savior’s injunction to “love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12). It is possible to have a different opinion than your neighbor while still loving that neighbor. It is even possible to “compete” in a spirit of mutual respect that brings out the best in everyone.
May we reflect personally on what we can do to eliminate contention from our own lives as we embrace the Olympic ideals of excellence, friendship, and respect.