“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” – 1 Corinthians 12:4-8
When we are kids, we begin to understand language by learning comparison words and opposites. We memorize word pairs like “big/little,” “fast/slow,” and “high/low” as we make sense of what we observe around us. By utilizing comparison, we learn how things are sorted and categorized, which helps our young, developing minds figure out where we fit in the world.
As we grow up, we continue using comparisons, but not for the sake of understanding the world. We compare to see if we fit in, or to see if we measure up to some arbitrary expectation of where we think we ought to be in our lives by a certain age.
“I can’t believe she already wrote a book. She’s only 25! Here I am in my 30s, and I’ve done nothing with my life.”
“They already paid off their student loans. What’s wrong with me that I can’t pay off mine?”
“He already got a promotion and moved to a new city. Why am I still in the same old job in the same old place?”
“Comparison takes an outside observation and internalizes it in a way that diminishes both ourselves and the person we are comparing ourselves to.”
Did you notice what these comparisons have in common? Self-shame. When we compare ourselves with others, we notice something good, or praiseworthy, or impressive in someone else’s life as a way of belittling our own lives and accomplishments. When we are in comparison mode, we point out the great things in someone else’s life, not for the sake of celebrating with them, but for the purpose of lamenting the things we haven’t said or done.
Comparison takes an outside observation and internalizes it in a way that diminishes both ourselves and the person we are comparing ourselves to. While occasionally comparison can motivate us to make changes or push toward something positive in our lives, many times all it does is leave us feeling defeated and alienated from the people around us.
In 1 Corinthians 12:4-8, the apostle Paul reminds us that the skills and gifts we have come from the Holy Spirit. The gifts you have. The gifts I have. The gifts of the person you can’t help comparing yourself to. How might our perspective change if we stop viewing each other as competition and start seeing ourselves as members of the same body with gifts and talents activated by the same Holy Spirit?
“How might our perspective change if we stop viewing each other as competition and start seeing ourselves as members of the same body, with gifts and talents activated by the same Holy Spirit?”
For Lent, as I continue the work of giving up busyness, I am noticing my tendency to fall into the comparison game. I want to relearn how to lift up the good things in others without feeling like I have to push myself down in the process. I want to become community minded, body of Christ minded, and discover that when one part of the body is healthy, it helps all of us.
Prayer: Lord, as I root out the busyness in my life, I notice my tendency to burden myself with comparisons. Give me the courage to celebrate with the joys of others, while also celebrating what you are doing in my life. Amen.