The Disease of Comparison

— Dana

I’ve always been impatient when God is trying to teach me something…despite the fact that I asked Him to be my Teacher years ago. He doesn’t seem to do it in outline form or deliver a nice set of instructions. Most of the time, the Lord sends me riddles or allegories…or even experiences…and I have to work hard to decipher them. He once sent me a dream and I spent months hunting for it in the Bible (I’m kind of lazy).

Really, why doesn’t God just use a lesson plan like a school teacher? I might actually get it then.

I had this conversation with Him recently…it went a little something like this:

Me: Lord, “Z” is ministering to so many people. Why is he/she hanging out with people all the time and encouraging them? Are you telling me that I’m doing something wrong? Hmmm. Maybe I should be like him/her. Now, if I just hang out with more people, I’ll be happy!!!

(There was silence on God’s side…and as of late, I have started to believe that He doesn’t answer my bratty complaints. Then, quietly, the thought formed in my head…)

GOD: Why do you look for the approval of men? Is it more important than My approval?

(Quiet. Precise. Wise. [Not something that could come from me.] I thought for awhile how I should answer God. Then I realized why I really wanted to hang out with people.)

Me: Lord, because I want to be people’s inspiration and out do “Z” in encouraging others.

God knew the real reason all the while. I understood the choice of pursuing time with others was mine, but I realized that God probably didn’t want to “grant” me the time to hang out with other people because it’ll only indulge my sinful nature.

It calmed me a little that day. But that conversation reminded me that I have this tendency to seek the approval of men. And this is just another form of it.

And my tendency to compare myself with others reared its ugly head each time “Z” spent time with someone. It’s uncanny…when I started comparing myself to “Z”, he/she began hanging out with more individuals, and so did a couple of other people. It was driving me crazy!!! I was furious at being poked by life (or maybe it was God that I was furious at), as if the world was saying: “Nah, nah!!! You can never be like them!!! You’ll always be a failure!!!” This is way too much of a coincidence…I know God was trying to tell me something via all these experiences but…

Out of desperation, I Googled my problem (Google is my shrink!!!) and read all I could about this tendency to compare oneself with another. One article, Do you compare yourself with others? resonated with me:

“You beat yourself up over seeing what another person has or done that you feel you should have done as well. Underneath you may not really want what other people have but you are consumed with being equal or better than your peers that you are blocked from knowing what you truly want for yourself.”

The article is right…I was so consumed by the desire to be better than my peers that I have ignored what I really want. I’m spending all my time and energy on a useless goal instead of pursuing my real dreams!!!

So I had long talk with God this week, trying to puzzle out my dilemma. And again He prodded me: What do you really want? Why are you not doing what you want instead of competing with other people’s dreams, so that you can be “better” than them in what they’re doing?

OUCH.

I started a long list in my head and I have no idea how I will achieve these lofty dreams…but it’s a start, I thought.

In a way, all this is my fault. After all, I did beg God to break the fear and inertia I had in pursuing my dreams. Boy has He been answering my prayers. I guess I never expected the process to be so bloody uncomfortable.

So I have dreams, and my task is to follow what the Bible says in Galatians (I’m pretty sure this is my life verse):

“Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.” (Galatians 6:4-5)

I know my tendency to compare myself with others is a habit that began in childhood when I compared myself to other students. At the end of each test or report, I would ask my friends about their results, and I still remember the look of pleasure on their face when they told me their better results. Until one day, I told someone I was first in my entire class on a particular project, and their smile fell. I remembered the thrill I felt then, that little pleasure of revenge I had…and like a rat in a wheel, I began replicating that experience in my adult life.

I only share this because it looks like God wants to break this habit of mine (and He is faithful to finish what He has started…if I’m a willing vessel). I hope I learn it before the world (or my sinful nature) drives me crazier with another example to learn from. Especially since I’ve entered the world of parenting…

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