Most of us play some form of a comparison game with our lives. It’s a cultural given. “Why did she get the promotion?” “How did his kid pull off that scholarship?” “Why is she so pretty, skinny, smart?” Comparison fuels gossip, social banter, and reality TV ratings.
Competition can be good. It makes for a solid Superbowl or Final Four. It drives the marketplace to new developments. Yet, when competition and comparison hijack our everyday lives by informing how we value others, we have a problem. When we experience one another as competitors instead of comrades on a shared journey, we miss out on opportunities for community and learning. When I see you as a threat to my success I end up (overtly or inadvertently) hoping for your demise.
God does not set us up for competition and comparison. God uniquely designed us so that each of us can bring to this world our exact mix of ideas, creativity, action, hope and passion. How can we begin to lean into that reality instead of pitting ourselves against one another?
Believe in abundance. Rather than fearing there are a limited number of slices available in a very small pie, believe that God is in the business of a bigger pie. One person’s success does not mean your loss. Multiple victories are possible. Believe that you are designed to succeed in a significant way alongside the success of others, not in place of it.
Share common experiences. Transparency about struggles and failures can lead a group or organization to greater health. Rather than hide your fumbles, believe that honesty about your shortcomings will help a team grow together. Dare to admit failure for the good of the whole. It will help your teammates see you as human and accessible rather than a closed off competitor.
Praise. What is your knee-jerk response when you encounter someone with a skill set you desire? Do you instantly compare yourself and list where you are lacking? Or do you begin doubting their success as a facade? Rather than angst over perceived success or downgrade your own achievements, compliment that person in your own head. List off ways that person reflects God and can be used to achieve God’s purposes. Privately celebrate him/her rather than degrade yourself or cheapen the other person’s achievements.
Trust Your Own Journey. Comparison thrives when we lust after the lives of others. Trust that God actually has a full life for you (John 10:10). If you believe that you are in pursuit of your own full life you will be less likely to compare yourself to others. Spend that energy creating your own path and learn from those you may even envy.
Overcoming our cultural penchant for comparison is a lifelong struggle but awareness over how comparison fuels our lives paired with an increasing awareness of the goodness and gift of others can lead us to safer, better equipped, thriving communities and lives.