Comparing myself to others can be a good thing. We look at the lives of the godly and mature around us and attempt to imitate them in our own life. Inevitably this involves comparison. To say that all comparison is wrong is to fall into the trap of Mickey Mouse Theology–i.e., I’m great exactly the way I am and I never need to change or let anyone tell me how to live my life. Not a Biblical idea at all.
However, comparison frequently becomes a great spiritual chain that we freely wrap around our hearts. We constantly assess others as better or worse than us in any number of different areas. He’s more fit than I am. She’s less attractive. They eat less healthily, more organic, with higher salt, or less fat, than we do. He knows more than I do. She might have a great mind but she has a terrible personality. I’m the funniest person in this room. On and on and on. Instead of humbly using our weaknesses as an occasion to ask for help and using our strengths as an occasion to celebrate grace, we turn to self-exaltation or self-pity. Two sides of the same coin of pride.
So, how do we know the difference between valuable comparison and the chain? Two of the easiest indicators are peace and gratefulness.
Helpful comparison that cultivates godly conviction is accompanied by peace….not frantic self-improvement anxiety. I truly want to become more like the godly examples I see around me, not frantically, not anxiously, but trusting in the peaceful conviction and power of the Spirit.
Helpful comparison that reveals a “strength” leads to gratefulness…not self-exultation. Seeing certain weaknesses in others that I don’t share to the same degree reminds me that all that I have comes from grace and that all good fruit comes from the Holy Spirit. Not a token “there but for the grace of God…” facade, but a true, heartfelt, humble gratefulness for God’s faithful work in our lives.
The Spirit uses the examples of others to show us our weaknesses and to reveal how much work he has accomplished in us. Anxiety and self-confidence are not fruit of the Spirit but of the flesh. Let us ask ourselves the question the next time we are comparing ourselves to others:
Am I feeling peaceful conviction and humble gratefulness right now?