A few days ago I was browsing social media and I came upon a picture of some old friends. Most of them are in church leadership. Some were older.  Some were younger. I'm not altogether sure why, but I thought about the pastors nearest my age and I felt "less than", "not successful" and "incapable". I was asking myself, "Why do I feel this way?  This is not normal.". I realized that the culprit causing such internal chaos and wreaking havoc was COMPARISON and it's a killer. The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:12-13, "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. We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us...." [1]

I found myself within the crosshairs of comparison. I was comparing myself, my calling, my church and my family against another person's calling, church, family, etc. We do that, don't we? We compare ourselves against other moms and dads. We compare ourselves against the successful partner at work. We compare our spiritual journeys against those we admire and look up to. We compare ourselves against a "better version of ourselves". What I've learned is this - it's foolish to engage the comparison game and COMPARISON IS A KILLER BECAUSE IT ISOLATES. It pits you against everything and everyone else. It becomes ME against the WORLD or I AM BETTER THAN EVERYONE ELSE. Pity and Pride hanging out together. Neither one cares as to who gets the recognition. They are both after the same thing; our paralysis by analysis, i.e. COMPARISON. 

Here are some of COMPARISON'S toxic poisons:

  1. Striving - "I have to do more" is the language of this toxic poison. We think that if we put in longer hours, drive our team harder and sacrifice our lives on the altar of elusive success, then we won't have to compare ourselves because we will be declared the winner of the immeasurable game of life.
  2. Loss of Focus - "Did you see what they did? Do you see what they have? Did you hear how everyone was talking about their presentation?" - These are the kind of questions that we ask ourselves when we lose sight of our journey and growth, and begin to focus more on the perceived success of others. We have lost sight of our journey and our path of following Christ. I can't see my Rabbi because I am too busy looking at someone else and how they are following their Rabbi. Before long, you look up and you don't recognize where you are or how you got there. Rabbi Jesus is no where to be seen. Loss of focus causes us to arrive at the places we swore we would never go.
  3. Illusionary Dreams - This is related to loss of focus. The difference is that we begin to bury our talents in the ground, because after all, the "return" will never be as much as the other guy's. Or the opposite is true. My dreams are illusions, because in my pride and arrogance I am showing off what I have acquired for God. This is what makes COMPARISON such a killer. Be less than what you are. Be more than what you are. It does not matter. COMPARISON just doesn't want us to BE WHO WE ARE!
  4. Victimization - Does Job sound familiar? - Friends that can't help; family is taken away. How about the injustices Joseph faced? - Sold into human slavery; accused of rape; incarcerated for a crime he didn't commit; rejected by family. How about Daniel? - A casualty of war; taken captive and indoctrinated by the godless Babylonians; educated in heathenish art, literature, science, etc. When we compare ourselves against others and come up short (in our own mind), we play the victim card. "Life is stacked against me. It's my spouse's fault. I don't have the right team. I need more resources. Everyone's against me." This is the powerless language of the victim. They will find someone or something to blame; resigning from responsibility. 
  5. Self Criticism - If the killer isn't coming from someone or something, then it will come from within. And maybe that's more deadly. The co-worker will go home at the end of the day. The person who is so successful will eventually leave. But, you are with one person more than any other and this will be true for the rest of your life. Who is this person?  YOURSELF.  You are always with you and that's why self-criticism is so dangerous. You can't escape you. However, you can get healthy. You can become more loving to yourself. Your inner critic can become your inner champion. You can have compassion for yourself. You can be confident, creative, connected and courageous. This toxic poison will carry a measuring rod to see if you are enough. It's plays a subtle game. So tempting. So deceptive. We find ourselves in the middle of it before we know it. 
  6. Jealous/Envy - Jealousy says, "I want what you have". Envy says, "I don't want you to have what you have". When jealousy and envy are present, you can bet entitlement will come too; this disastrous trio is quick to arrive. It's as if they come together in a set. COMPARISON says, "Here, drink this. It's jealousy. It won't satisfy your thirst, so follow it with envy. Maybe the two of them will satisfy your thirst. No? Here, try the 3rd part - entitlement! Those don't satisfy? Sorry..". At this point, the damage is done. The heart has grown cold and hard and we start striving saying, "Let's work harder, do more"... and the cycle continues.

There is hope beloved. In part two, we'll discover what to do when we are in the crosshairs of COMPARISON. 

 

[1] Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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