Comparatively Speaking

I’ve never had any problem comparing myself to others. When I do, I’m usually disappointed, though. I’m probably my harshest critic and, in my own eyes, I frequently fail to meet or exceed the qualities of those to whom I’m comparing myself.

When I see someone who’s in shape because they work out regularly, I look at my aging body and think “I wish I could be that interested in and dedicated to exercising.” You’ll notice I’m not making a commitment to start exercising, not even the first little step, in order to be what I wish I was like. Wishing won’t change anything, only action will. I need to make up my mind to exercise on a regular basis, and actually do it, to make that wish come true.

When I read about others who’ve completed their first novel in the past year and yet here I am still struggling, I ask myself “What’s wrong with me? Why aren’t I further along?” The problem here is fear. I’ve come to realize I have a fear of failure and a fear of success, so I’m constantly working against myself. I’m afraid to start in case I fail and I’m afraid to finish in case my book is a success and I become famous. I don’t want to be famous — I want my book to be a success, in that it touches thousands upon thousands of lives, but not for me to be in the limelight. Does that make sense? It’s a crazy thought problem, a mindset problem, that I’m now committed to working on.

What about you? Is there something about yourself you wish were different?

It is human nature to compare ourselves to someone else, but all it does is invite a lack of peace. There’s always going to be someone else who has more possessions, a better physique, more power, more prestige, or does something we wish we could do. But so what? We may be that person to someone else.

Just because someone has a bigger house or a sportier car doesn’t mean that person is more of a success. Outwardly, they may have all the worldly markers of success but they may be drowning in debt just to keep up that appearance. What use is it for someone to have all the outward indicators of success if they are lost, miserable, lonely, or depressed, like the rich leader in Luke 18:23?

Besides, a higher bank balance doesn’t give the details of how hard someone’s worked, how disciplined they’ve been, or how much they’ve sacrificed to get there. A more shapely body may be good genetics but it may also be the result of better nutrition and being more disciplined with physical exercise.

To improve things like our finances, fitness level, overall health, organizational abilities, or cleanliness and tidiness qualities, for example, it’s a matter of deciding to step out of our comfort zone and put forth a little concentrated effort. We’ve got to want it enough to learn how to be better, take the necessary steps, and apply ourselves.

A good reason to change things is to become a better person or improve our situation, not because we want to be like, or better than, someone else. Any comparisons should be done before and after incorporating new behaviors and habits as a way to determine how much we’ve improved and to see if any adjustments need to be made to reach our goal, not just for the satisfaction of winning a one-up contest.

Looking at outward appearance tells us nothing about what’s going on behind the scenes. People are so good at wearing masks to hide the truth of their lives that it’s pointless to make assumptions or judgements based on what we see.

Many of us have something about our lives we wish were different. Just as it’s human nature to compare ourselves to others, it’s also easy to find something about ourselves we don’t like.

Sometimes, it may be something we can change but we’re just not willing to put forth the time and effort it takes right now, like our fitness level or financial situation.

Other times, though, it may be a trait we had no choice over and can’t change, like our height, the size of our nose, or the fact that we have curly hair instead of straight. Alright, there are some ways to change those things, like platform shoes, rhinoplasty, and hair straightening products and techniques, but in Romans 9:20, it says: You are only a human being. Who do you think you are to talk back to God? Does the clay say to the potter, “Why did you make me like this?”

I’m willing to bet there’s some of us who have questioned God’s reasoning behind making them the way they are, and may have even got mad at Him for it. What we’ve got to remember, though, is His thinking is way beyond our comprehension. He made each of us the way we are for a reason and He has a purpose for each of us, just the way we are. He also put each of us right where we need to be, at just the right time, to carry out that purpose.

God gave each of us unique characteristics, qualities, and gifts. We all have different strengths and weaknesses; what you’re gifted in I may struggle with, but what you’re weak in may be my forte. None of that makes either one of us better or less than the other one. It just makes us different. And different is good.

From the color of our eyes, hair, and skin, to the grooves that make up our fingerprints and the coding of our DNA, God specializes in making unique beings. We should revel in our uniqueness and be thankful for our differences, not look down on anyone or judge anyone over their appearance or for being different. Nor should it be the other way around where we covet what someone else has or put them on a pedestal because they seem more talented or have something we don’t.

We should never try to reshape ourselves to be like someone else. We are the way we are for good reason.

In 1 Corinthians 12, the Bible compares each of us to different parts of the same body, each having its own special function. One part can’t claim another part isn’t important, isn’t needed, or doesn’t belong, nor can one part say it’s not of any use, just because it’s not the same as another part. The body wouldn’t really be a body at all if every part was the same as every other one or if all the parts served the same purpose. Each part is necessary and important for the task for which it was designed.

God placed all the different parts together the way he wanted so they would work together and it would function properly. They’re not supposed to work separately from the body. In the same way, we’re each given different characteristics, qualities, abilities, and gifts so that together we can be contribute to and build up the body of Christ, His church, His family.

The Lord wants us to use the gifts He’s given us to benefit and encourage others. 1 Peter 4:10 (NLT) says: “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” And 1 Corinthians 12:7 (NLT) says: “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” Really, the only comparing we should be doing is to find out what someone else needs that we can provide.

The real question we’re asking ourselves when we compare ourselves to someone else is “Am I good enough?” or “Do I measure up?”

Asking those questions means we’re looking around instead of looking up. Because of the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf, we are always good enough in God’s eyes.

If we’re filled with the love of God and we’re keeping our focus on Jesus, the questions we should be asking are “How can I bring God glory today?” and “Are there any wrong motives or sinful ways hidden within me that need to be cleansed?”

God looks at the heart of a person. The motives behind our actions are what’s important to Him. Proverbs 21:2 says “People may be right in their own eyes, but the lord examines their heart,” and the second half of 1 Samuel 16:7 says: “The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

As it says in Proverbs 27:19 “As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person.” In other words, if our heart is filled with God’s love, then we would be able to see ourselves and others the way He does — as His beloved children, each one cherished, each one made unique and special in His sight. We would also want to obey Him and part of that obedience is loving others the way He loves us.

God’s love leaves no room for comparison or discrimination or judgement. That kind of love expresses itself as forgiveness, encouragement, and generosity.

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