The Comparison Trap
Einstein once said, “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” I hate to admit it, but I have spent many years doing just that. It’s so unbelievably easy to begin judging yourself by the wrong standard! When I compare myself to something I’m not, namely other people, it robs me of who I am meant to be. Even if I compare myself favorably, the end result is the same. Any standard you use to measure yourself against that is different from who you’re designed to be is a standard that will always leave you feeling insecure, unsure and unfit.
So if I define myself by money, which I have done, my worth becomes completely enmeshed in how much I have or don’t have. This is a precarious place to be because for the vast majority of us there is always someone out there with much, much more. Money can also be taken from you. And frankly, you can be an absolutely miserable human being by any definition of that word and have quite a bit of money.
If I define myself by looks, which I have done, I become a victim of time. Last year’s face had a few less lines, a few less flaws and wrinkles. Even though I push myself physically, at some point I have to acknowledge I can’t do quite as much as I could before. When I look around, there is always someone better looking, younger, thinner, or in better shape than I am. Putting hope in appearance is like stepping onto something that looks like a sunny spot on the beach only to later realize it’s quick sand.
In my life, I have judged myself by the quality of my relationships, the quantity of my relationships, my performance, my skills and talents, my ambition and discipline, my renown, my control, my emotional stability, my parenting, my position and even my faith. I feel either high or low depending on how I rate myself, all the while using others as my comparison point. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, I suspect there are things here that sound familiar to you if you were writing out a list of your own.
One of the most beautiful, freeing things I have ever done was to say good-bye to that crazy list altogether and to quit defining myself by anyone else’s standard, even my own. Instead, I’ve embraced a deeper richer truth: God loves and accepts me unconditionally, apart from my performance. All He asks is that I love Him in return. How well I learn to love and trust Him doesn’t dictate His love for me, either. His love is there regardless.
The more I learn to receive and accept His love, the more I am able to hear His direction in my life and head down the path He would have me walk. Sometimes the road He asks me to take is scary because I can’t see where it leads me. Sometimes the path is frustrating because I think I know the way I should go so I run ahead of God only to get lost on a side path. Yet God is always right there, leading me forward.
A crazy thing happens the more I learn to simply walk the path God has marked out for me. I begin to find the unique, remarkable individual genius God has placed within me. I see more clearly my inner contributions that only I can give this world for there is no one else quite like me. Instead of comparing myself to others, I can embrace my own truths, which in turn frees me up to simply love and accept people for who they are. After all, they’re not called to be me anymore than I’m called to be them! So I can celebrate their victories, share their joy and their tears, and love them more unconditionally because I’m not trying to be them. I’m simply encouraging them to be the best version of themselves God created them to be. And they do the same for me.
For Further Thought: Psalm 139:14 says, “I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.” We are also told in 1 Corinthians 12:14-18, 27, “I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, ‘I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,’ would that make it so? If Ear said, ‘I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,’ would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it … You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything.” What can you do this week to step further away from comparing yourself to others and move more closely into who you have been designed by God to be?