Comparing Myself to Others – Grace Make the Difference

In church a couple of weeks ago the pastor said something that caused me to think, “I’ve got to stop comparing myself to others!” At this point, I can’t remember the sermon topic, or the passages that he cited, or even exactly what he said, but the issue of not comparing myself to others has stuck with me.  I’ve been turning it over in my mind since then.  I do understand that my ultimate responsibility is to God, and that we all have the same judge – a judge who does not grade on the curve.  As the Apostle Paul says it,

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Galatians 6:1-8 NIV

Okay, I get that. But in day-to-day living it seems that I am always needing to compare myself to, or I am being compared with, other people. Examples abound:
– Do I sing well enough to serve in the choir? [no]
– Am I smart enough to get into medical school? [yes]
– Am I good enough to get the job, or the promotion? [maybe]
– How popular are my books and my blog? [not that popular]
– Can I make the sports team? [never could]
– What are my talents and abilities? [varied]
– How do they measure up in the marketplace? [some better, some worse]
I’m sure you can think of many more. Our human systems and societies typically reward talent, skills, drive, ambition, intelligence, beauty and other personal characteristics that are not equally distributed. Some can be acquired (education for example) but others are inborn gifts – if you don’t have them, you can’t get them. Life isn’t fair.

I don’t think it’s possible for me to completely stop comparing myself to other people without the Holy Spirit changing me from the inside (which is happening, albeit slowly). But honestly, comparison seems to be built into our social fabric, it’s how the world works. As I’ve thought about this, I’m not sure the real issue is “comparing,” but rather the “judging” that is part of my sinful nature. The Bible warns us more about judging than comparing, and we are to be “discerning” about people and issues. Doesn’t discerning involve comparing, at least sometimes?

Given that, I’ve begun to think that controlling my attitude is the most important thing to do as I inevitably continue to view myself in relationship to others. I can control my attitude. What’s my perspective? Am I operating from a perspective of Grace or from that of Law/Works? I think that makes all the difference. I’ve tried to express this in the 2×2 matrix below.

Comparing

Here’s how I’m seeing it:

If I operate from a perspective of Law, where I compare favorably to others (quadrant 1), I adopt a self-righteous attitude and am contemptuous or disregarding of “lesser” people. Where I don’t measure up (quadrant 3), I become envious of others’ success or giftedness, and I may despise and disparage them in an attempt to elevate myself.

On the other hand, operating from a perspective of Grace, where I compare favorably (quadrant 2), I am grateful for my talent, success or other blessing from God. I know it is not me who is responsible. This also leads to compassion for those who may be relatively lacking in those same areas in which God has blessed me. Where I am not gifted or specially blessed (quadrant 4), I can accept my limitations or shortcomings. God’s grace is enough. I don’t have to “measure up” to any human standard. Seeing and appreciating the gifts and blessings that God has given to others allows me to be happy for them.

That’s a very short explanation; Grace goes a lot deeper. It is by Grace that we are saved and transformed. It’s so easy to slide back into a Law- or Works-based perspective in selected areas of life. That leads to a person who may be saved all right, but perhaps has persistent bitterness, envy, or self-righteousness. Understanding and operating from Grace is the cure for that. Think Grace!

Comments

  1. Deborah Novak says:

    Thanks for sharing your perspective. I finished the first part of Strengths-based leadership coaching (Marcus Buckingham) and what I loved about it is to focus on our strengths, develop them more and share those gifts with the world while honoring the strengths of others. Not better or worse-just different.

  2. Pete,

    Great stuff, and especially relevant food for thought for professional business people who are used to competing as a part of their career progression. The key is what (and who) are we comparing ourselves to?