Comparing: It’s been somewhat of a problem and a temptation for me for as long as I can remember. In high school I was often guilty of it. I got my sense of self-esteem, self-worth and self-identity by comparing myself with others. How was I looking, how was I doing, how was I viewed by others, my grades, my clothes, my athletic prowess, my popularity with girls.
In the leadership realm comparing is a huge issue. I have been to more leadership meetings than I care to remember. When pastors from the same denomination or leaders from the same organization have their periodic meetings, the “comparing games” begin in earnest. In most leadership meetings, it’s not uncommon to have the “Mr. or Ms. Successful” who become the poster child for what we should be like and experiencing. It usually depresses me.
We compare results, ministry size, salaries, cars, houses, responsibilities, fruitfulness, breakthroughs, victories, major achievements and favorite vacation spots ad “infinauseum.” Sometimes we go around the room and give reports, which just seems to feed the “Comparing Games.” Other than being sick, harmful, dangerous and unbiblical, it’s normal. Normal, that is, for our fallen and prideful old nature which, I am sorry to report, is in very good health these days among many leaders.
In my own work with leaders, I run into this issue just about every week. Last week I had some time with a young leader who shared frankly how caught up he was in defining his sense of success and worth by establishing (in his mind) where he was in the pecking order with other leaders he knew. Rather than rejoicing with the blessing of God on other leaders, he found himself getting discouraged and depressed because he perceived he wasn’t doing as well as he should be doing compared to them.
Now, let me say that I think comparing is a good idea. What? Aren’t you contradicting what you just said? No! I think it’s good to compare what is happening with me with what can potentially happen. It’s good to compare where I am in my growth and ministry effectiveness with where it’s possible to be, with God’s touch. Where I get into trouble is when I compare myself with others who have different gifts, callings, capacities and personalities. I often find myself coming out on the short end of the stick.
Doing some self-analysis, with my personal design in mind, and wanting to see things in the future be better is at the heart of vision and goal setting. It’s healthy to compare me with me, but unbiblical to compare me with others. God wants me to grow, to achieve, to be fruitful as I depend on Him and am honest about who I am. It’s unhealthy to try to be like someone else.
I have no desire to be like many of the leaders I read about or know. I want to be, with God’s grace, the best Dave Kraft I am capable of being. I’m going to be different than everybody else because God has made me the unique creation that I am. There is nobody else with my combination of gifts, personality, upbringing, capacity and desires. God truly broke the mold when He fashioned me (Psalm 139). I’m constantly in the process of being delivered from the temptation to be anybody other than me.
Walt Disney said,
“THE MORE YOU ARE LIKE YOURSELF, THE LESS YOU ARE LIKE ANYBODY ELSE AND THAT’S WHAT MAKES YOU UNIQUE.”
Let me give some biblical support for staying clear of “comparison.”
“ Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So, what’s the point of all this comparing and competing?” I Corinthians 4:7 The Message
There just isn’t any point if I truly believe that who I am and what I am able to do are sheer gifts.
“Peter seeing him (John) said to Jesus, ‘But Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? Follow me.’ “ John 21:21,22 New King James
Jesus is dealing with Peter’s attempt to compare himself with John as to their futures. Jesus set him straight in short order by saying that what happens with John is none of Peter’s business. His business was to focus on his own walk with Jesus and not size himself up by what’s going on with his good friend.
“For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” II Corinthians 10:12 New King James
It could not be more clear than in this verse. Paul himself seems to be saying that he will not be part of the “comparison game” (a losing game I may add) to which others are falling prey.
“A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God.” I Tim 6:6 The Message
Oh, the joy and freedom of being who God made me to be: thankful and content with who I am, where I am and what I’m doing and not (often) giving in to the temptation of getting my sense of personal identity or self-worth by comparing in an effort to determine where I am in the food chain or pecking order.
“But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” Luke 14:11 The Message
This, I believe, is a great explanation of biblical humility: content to be simply myself. Not trying, in human energy or pride, to be more than myself or, conversely, running myself down through so-called false humility to be less than myself.
Comparing is a losing game for me as I will always find greater or lesser persons than myself. So I either become proud or depressed, neither of which are good for my spiritual or emotional health. Comparing is saying I don’t trust the sovereignty of God in my life…that I don’t really accept and am not genuinely thankful for who I am and what he is allowing me to accomplish. I am jealous and envious of others.
For me, I deal with this temptation to compare by praying daily, filling my mental hard drive with verses like those above and confessing it as sin as soon as I’m aware that my thinking is again taking me down the comparison road. I want to nip it in the bud before it starts to dictate and control my behavior. There are the good and bad days; but, all the while, I’m moving in the right direction.