We live in a seriously brutal age of comparison. It’s everywhere. Social media has done some really cool things, but it’s also dangerously heightened our sense of comparison. It’s all too easy to open our phones in the morning, glance through what everyone is posting, and then immediately berate ourselves (consciously or unconsciously) for not achieving those same milestones. I do it all the time without even realizing it and it’s madness. Total madness.
I wish I could say we get better at that when we know Christ, but the same issue just keeps popping up. We start comparing ourselves to well known biblical figures or Christian leaders of our own day and instead of drawing on their example we beat ourselves over the head for not being in the same place or having the same success as them. It’s like whack-a-mole but with self-image. The problem with the comparing game isn’t just that we become malcontent with our own lives, but that somewhere in the course of things we stop moving. We put more of our time and effort into worrying that we’re not measuring up and forget to be doing anything in the first place.
The biggest issue with the comparison game though? We were never meant to be doing the same thing in the first place. I think we as Christians forget that a little easily sometimes. We read about the mission of God, listen to the great commission, and get ourselves wrapped up in the idea that we all have to do things exactly as the apostles did.
I want to be very careful here. I’m not saying “You do you! Forget what Jesus and the apostles did! Have your own style!” I’m not saying that at all. What I want to suggest though is that while we’re all born into new purpose with Christ, our journey isn’t necessarily going to look the same as our neighbor’s.
The missions do not need to be identical, but the purpose of them does.
Think of it this way. If a distress call reaches land that a ship is sinking and a crew responds, how would that crew work best? Would the crew be successful if the boat pulled up to save the drowning survivors and everyone dived in the water to save them? At that rate, you no longer have a rescue mission, you just have that many more people who need saving. There are other jobs that need to be done that are absolutely critical to the success of the mission.
Someone has to keep the boat in control and make sure the rescue boat doesn’t end up needing a rescue of its own. Someone else needs to pull the survivors back on deck. Someone needs to be standing by to take the survivors below and get them warm and dry before hypothermia sets in. Someone else needs to not even be on the boat in the first place, but managing the radio back onshore, listening carefully. If any one of these jobs gets ignored or done half-heartedly the rescue mission could fail. They need everyone.
Paul was well aware of that fact when he wrote Romans. He implored believers not to get caught up in the viciousness of the comparison and copy game because he recognized that God knew what he was doing when he made us individuals.
“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.” (Romans 12:4-8)
You are not called to be Moses. You are not called to be Esther. You are not called to be Paul. You are not even called to be Gideon, Peter, or Hannah.
You are called to be you.
This is not so much a matter of no one being able to do what you can, but more a matter of God just wants you. I think it’s safe to say if God made you startlingly different from someone you admire it’s not because he didn’t care enough to make you like them, it’s because he wanted the uniqueness of you. If God wanted another Deborah or Paul, he would have made one. You are a part of the body of Christ, and you definitely have a place here that’s not depended on how well someone else is performing.
Obviously, recognizing this isn’t some magic, one-stop fix. Comparison is a harder habit to break than that. But little steps often yield big results in changing our outlook. You are part of the rescue crew. Do your part with every fiber of your being regardless of how much more successful, capable, well-known, cooler, liked, strong, or accomplished the person next to you is. They’re not you. Their victories do not mean you do not have any, and God is working on things in their heart just as much as he is working on things in yours.
I can’t promise that the comparison game will get any easier any time soon, but I still urge you to fight it with everything you’ve got. You were made to do so much more than compare every little piece of yourself until there’s nothing left to be confident in. We were made with unique intention and purpose. May we live like it.
Let’s find some joy,