Last week I was able to take my kids on an outing that had a huge rock climbing wall! My oldest three happily stood in a long line to complete this task. As they reached the front of the line the workers helped each kid into a harness. Then they went onto the wall. They were happily climbing when my oldest stopped. “Mom, I’m scared.”
“Keep going. Your brother is almost at the top,” I replied.
He looked up. Considered going higher but pushed himself backwards repelling off the wall. Seconds later, his bother rings the bell showing he had reached the top.
As the oldest got down I could see he was disappointed. I told him good job and gave him a high five.
When his brother came down, he was gleaming with a huge smile. I gave him a high five and told him I was proud of him.
My oldest started tearing up. “Mom, you are proud of him and not of me…”
WHAT!!! How did you hear that? I never said that… I never implied that… I never even thought that…“No way kiddo. I am proud of you, but your brother just reached the top! That’s an accomplishment! We need to celebrate it.”
I didn’t mean to create a competition between my boys. I just thought a little encouragement and motivation may help him face his fears. Instead, my son saw that since his brother did better than he did, his accomplishment was nothing.
Man, I do not want my kids to think that! It took me years to realize how badly I struggle with the comparison trap. Hear me closely everyone, Someone else’s accomplishment does not take away from yours!!!
Some competition is good. It is good to be pushed to be your best and to do your best. It is good to learn to win and learn to lose. But these competitions should never affect our self-worth, the value we see in ourselves.
Growing up I struggled with constantly comparing myself to others. As I got older, this had an impact on me. First, emotionally- I cared way too much how people viewed me and sought approval in odd places. It also affected me socially. I was constantly comparing myself to others. So, if I thought another girl was pretty, all the sudden I didn’t feel pretty. Then I was intimidated by her. The next thing I knew I had created a wall in my head that she and I could not be friends. Because of my own thoughts… nothing else.
If someone was better at something than me, I took it personally. If I could not easily get better, I would make an excuse or just quit all together. This is not something I grew out of. In fact, I did not realize I had this problem until I was well into my adult years.
I remember walking into a new church several years ago. There was this nice lady who welcomed my family and me. She helped us check the kids in and walked us to their rooms. She led us back to the main area, and then my husband and I went to find seats. After finding our seats and meeting up with the couple who invited us, I learned who the lady was and what other people thought of her. People thought VERY highly of her, and they all really liked her. Suddenly, I was like, “Wait- why don’t people think this of me?” “I’m better than her at x,y, and z.” I was completely intimidated by her, so I began rationalizing why I was better than her. Instead of recognizing it, I put up this wall up because of what others thought… And their thoughts were all positive. My thoughts were distorted.
The only person this wall hurt was me. I told my husband about it years later. He honestly had no clue these thoughts floated through my head. His response was, “Why?” Why? That is a good question. And a question I now have the answer to.
The enemy completely had a foothold in my heart. He had apparently had that foothold for quite some time too. I can look back at this situation and see the errors in my ways. “But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble (Proverbs 4:19).”
Comparison has cost me relationships. It has cost me time. It has cost me peace. I praise God that he revealed this error in my ways. The only person I need to be comparing myself to is the person I am today to the person God designed me to be.
Part of my struggle with comparison is due to my desire to please man rather than pleasing God. Since I weighed other’s opinions highly, I internalized their positive opinions of others to be negative towards me- which couldn’t be further from the truth. However, as I have learned to see myself the way God sees me, I have been able to stop comparing myself to others and start celebrating them. I have stopped searching for man’s approval and sought to be obedient to God and His plan for my life. I have seen good fruit, a healthy heart, and a peaceful life.
Celebrating someone else’s accomplishment, talents, or value is something we should do. We should build each other up in brotherly (or sisterly) love. Just because someone else painted an amazing picture, does not mean your picture is not good. Just because someone else looks beautiful, does not mean you are not beautiful. Just because someone else is blessed, does not mean you are not blessed.
If you struggle with the comparison trap affecting your life, please know I have been there. It’s hard to be genuinely happy for someone when you are not fully happy yourself. Please look in the mirror and see what God sees- He sees you- His perfectly and wonderfully made daughter. Be in prayer and ask God for the help you need. What you see as a flaw, God tends to use for His glory!
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.