Why do we compare ourselves to other people? We often do it for two reasons: we want to win, and we want them to lose. If you think about it, there are times when you just want someone who seems to be living the perfect life to fail. Isn't that horrible?! Yes it is, but it's true of all of us.
For instance, I have continued in agony over the Falcons losing to the Patriots in the Super Bowl last year. I wanted nothing more than for the Patriots to be crushed by the Eagles in this year's Super Bowl. And the Eagles won! But somehow I really didn't feel better. I then became even angrier when I realized that if the Eagles, who the Falcons should have beaten, could beat the Patriots, then why didn't the Falcons beat the Eagles and then beat the Patriots this year?! It was a nasty spiral.
Sometimes we believe that if we can just beat someone, or be a little bit better than them at something, then we would feel like we've accomplished something. But the truth is that if we only seek to be better than someone else we put ourselves on the path of comparison which never leads to satisfying peace.
Comparison is a lose-lose-lose situation. We experience three kinds of losses when we compare ourselves to others. The first loss is our identity. When we compare ourselves to others, we become more like them and less like ourselves. The result is that we won't discover the unique person God made us to be.
The second kind of loss is that we become envious. At the heart of comparison is envy. As Solomon said, "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones" (Proverbs 14:30). Envy will destroy our relationships. If you don't believe me, watch Spiderman 3. When we envy, we want what we do not have or cannot have. And even if we finally attain it, we often damage our relationships along the way.
The third loss in comparison is that we push God away. When our primary goal is to to outdo others, we forget that growing closer to God is inextricably connected to loving others. It's difficult to love people when you're constantly trying to outdo them. Jesus taught us this principle when He explained the two greatest commandments.
"Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Matthew 22:37-39
Comparison is a battle we all face. If we don't fight to stop it we will lose in our relationships with ourselves, our friends, and our God. So instead of losing this battle, do you want to know how to start winning?
To understand and win the battle of comparison is to learn the answer to this question: Who does God compare me to? Who do you think God compares you to? Billy Graham? Your parents? Your spouse? Your relatives? Your friends? Your boss? Your co-workers? Your neighbors?
The answer is simple. God compares you to no one.
"I have loved you with an everlasting love. That is why I have always been faithful to you. I will rebuild you, my dear children, so that once again you will be built up." Jeremiah 31:3
God loves you for who you are. He loves you because He made you to be you, with all your strengths and weaknesses. He has a unique plan for you that He wants to help you discover. He doesn't compare you to anyone else, so you don't need to compare yourself to anyone either.
My hope is that you begin realizing that God compares you to no other person. And when you do, the real you will come alive. The fear of measuring up to someone else will evaporate. You will be free to be who God made you to be. And you can start being that person today.
Here's a suggestion of how to begin putting comparison in the rear-view mirror. Read and reflect on Psalm 37 for the next 7 days. This psalm challenges us to look to God for a right perspective on our lives and especially toward those we may envy. Journal some thoughts about this psalm and try to compile a list of everyone you've envied or to whom you've compared yourself.
We will finish this topic of comparison next week by answering the question: How can I celebrate the people I envy the most?
Have a great week!