How did you feel reading that title? Did it form a little knot in your stomach because you hate the idea of comparison and have first hand felt the negative effects of it? Well, you’re not alone.
The more and more I talk with young women and men about self-worth I realize that their self-worth value is threatened whenever they compare themselves with others. Because let’s face it, there will always be someone better than you at almost anything.
Comparison usually starts out being done to us by others, and we let that manifest in our minds. We then become our own worst critic as we compare ourselves to others. We often forget that we have full control over how we react to that comparison. We have to be on guard because comparison can kill many beautiful things.
Popular culture has somehow convinced society that the only way to better yourself is by comparing yourself to others who are doing way better than you. Everyone is always put on a ranking scale. In high school, you’re publicly ranked against everyone else in your class. At home, your parents might be constantly comparing you to your siblings or more successful cousins. In church, you might be compared with the other girl, deacon, or servant who seems to live in church. At work, you could be compared to your coworker who is out performing everyone. When you get to my stage of life, you unwillingly get compared to every other mom out there who’s child is eating, sleeping, growing, and learning better than yours. The list can go on and on, and it’s exhausting.
Although we cannot manage the comparison being done by others, we have control over our own thoughts. Ever heard the popular saying by Charles R. Swindoll: “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” Well, I don’t know how Mr. Swindoll came up with that percentage, but he makes a very valid point. Control your reaction when you cannot control someone else’s action.
In high school I was on the swimming team and it was one of my favorite things, and my main stress reliever. When it came to the swimming competitions swimmers were placed in the lanes based on their previous recorded time. The fastest swimmers always swam in the middle lanes, and the slowest in the far lanes. Everyone’s eyes were on those middle lanes, and the comparison was already done before the race even began, before you even had a chance to prove yourself. Let’s just say I rarely swam in the middle lanes. Now, if I let that get to my head I would have felt defeated and hopeless. Instead I chose to focus on my personal best record everytime I swam. It wasn’t just about beating the swimmer in the next lane, but about being better than the last time I swam. Instead of focusing on comparing myself to others and letting that deplete my mental energy, I tried to only focus on me.
If we allow the negativity that comes with comparison to nest itself in our minds it can trickle down to how we live our personal lives, and that can be detrimental to our growth. Instead of always focusing on how we don’t measure up to others, let’s focus on what we should be really measuring ourselves to. And that is the best version of ourselves, the version that Christ calls us to be.
We see in the Gospels that the disciples discussed the issue of who was the greatest. In Mark 9: 33-36 we read:
“Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”
St. John Chyrsostom commented on this and said, “If you are in love with precedence and the highest honor, pursue the things in last place, pursue being the least valued of all, pursue being the lowliest of all, pursue being the smallest of all, pursue placing yourselves behind others.”
So if we really want to be the greatest we have to seek humility; that is the Christian way. It is important that we don’t confuse humility with low self-worth or low self-esteem. Humility is putting others before ourselves, and always remembering that we serve others to serve Christ and that we are always worthy of His love. Humility should be used to bring ourselves to repentance and closer to God. When we have low self-worth and tell ourselves that we are not worthy because of our sins and flaws that pushes us further away from Christ. It makes us feel like we are not good enough for His love, and that is a dangerous mentality to have.
So instead of wasting so much energy on destructive comparison, let’s remember that Christ will only judge us on what He gave us and how well we’ve used it (parable of the talents). So use every talent you have to glorify His name, and don’t focus on the talents that you don’t have. Christ gives each one according to their own measure. Strive to live according to His standards and not the world’s standard or anyone else’s.