Galatians 6:4-5 | Mark 10:42-44 | John 14:21
Keep your eyes on your own paper!
Someone once wrote*, “If you compare yourself to others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” Comparing yourself to those “lesser” than yourself can make you vain–conceited, snobby, uppity. While measuring yourself against those who are “greater” can cause bitterness about not having as much or doing as well as they do.
Paul wrote to the early followers of Christ:
Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.(Galatians 6:4-5 NLT)
If you find it hard to stop comparing yourself to your friends or classmates, take a look at your goals. Are you aiming for “a job well done,” or for the glory that comes from being better than those around you?
Worrying about what other people will do is iffy, at best, because you cannot control other people. (Controlling yourself is difficult enough!) But Paul reminds us that we only have to answer for “our own conduct.” What a relief!
As Miriam reminded Malachi in the Superbook Show episode, there is only one standard to measure ourselves against: Jesus. You may remember what Jesus told his disciples about greatness…
So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.(Mark 10:42-44 NLT)
Do you want to be great? Be great in Jesus’ eyes. Be a leader by serving others. And don’t worry about whether you are serving others as well as someone else.
“Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”(John 14:21)
Honestly–isn’t it enough to be loved by God, without needing to worry about rankings?
* Max Ehrmann, from the poem Desiderata
Questions for Group Discussion
- Why do people get caught up in comparing themselves to others? Is it insecurity? Is it conceit?
- When have you notably compared yourself to others? What were the results?
- Have you ever been the best at something? Have you won first place? Had a long-standing record? How did it feel?
- Have you ever been dead last at something? How did that feel?
- Is there a difference between comparison and competition?
For the Sake of Comparison: Challenge
It can be difficult to break the habit of comparison. We spend time comparing offers to find the best deal. We compare things in order to distinguish them from other things. Comparison is useful, but it can get in the way of appreciating things for what they are.
Here is a challenge that will give you practice breaking the comparison habit.
- Find video of competition(s) involving judges, preferably something active where technique is key. If possible, pick something you are familiar with. Dance, surfing, skateboarding, and figure skating competitions are all great. Other options might include dog shows, music competitions, etc.
- Watch the video without guessing who will win, or even deciding which competitor you like better. Instead, look for things you appreciate about each performance: making difficult moves look easy, overall beauty, great attitudes, and so on.
Did you find this difficult? If so, did you find it helpful to shift your focus away from comparison and toward appreciation?
Take a moment to appreciate what you saw and to thank God for his amazing Creation.