Let everyone be sure that he is doing his very best, for then he will have the personal satisfaction of work well done and won’t need to compare himself with someone else. Each of us must bear some faults and burdens of his own. For none of us is perfect! [Galatians 6:4-5 (TLB)]
When I log the number of steps I’ve taken each day, I often compare my total with that of my Fitbit friends. No matter what I do or how far I’ve walked, one friend is always far ahead of me. True, a little friendly competition can be good for us when it makes us challenge ourselves and work harder. Walking with this friend, for example, challenges me to step up my pace. Too competitive a spirit, however, can hurt us. Last year, bound and determined to record more steps than she, I devoted a week to out-walking this woman who is nearly thirty years my junior. I ended up with a stress fracture and, to add insult to injury, she still logged more steps!
Comparing ourselves to other people can lead to more than a stress fracture. We usually end up thinking we’re either inferior to or better than the other person. Either way, comparing puts the focus on us rather than our goal and love ceases to be our motivation. We’re commanded not to covet and comparing ourselves to others often leads to jealousy and coveting. By trying to out-walk my friend, I was coveting her youth and fitness. I was focusing on what I wasn’t and wanted to be (a beautiful athletic young woman) rather than what I am and can be (a healthy fit older woman).
When comparing ourselves to others, we also risk becoming pride filled. Even though I can’t out-walk my friend, I usually manage to out-walk most of our other Fitbit friends. I confess to having felt rather smug about that until I remembered that their goals may be quite different than mine and they probably don’t have the free time for fitness that I do.
God created each of us with unique strengths and weaknesses and gave each of us our own custom-designed race to run and track on which to run it. Some people will be faster and some courses will be easier but that’s God’s business, not ours. Instead of comparing ourselves to anyone else, we should be thankful for who and what we are. Rather than trying to be better than the other guy, perhaps we should just try to be the person God wants us to be! The good examples of others can encourage us and our good examples can inspire others, but we must never get bogged down by comparing ourselves or by trying to run someone else’s race. If we must compare, how about comparing ourselves to Jesus? A word of warning, however, it’s a guarantee that we’ll be found wanting in that one!
Be all you can be. [U.S. Army slogan from 1980-2001]