Making comparisons—we all do it.
We’re taught this skill as a positive thing from the time we’re young. So why is it able to have such a negative outcome when we get older? Comparing ourselves to others can lift us to a point of superiority or reduce us to tears over self-imposed feelings of inferiority.
But does it have to be this way? Is there a way to turn this common action into something godly and beneficial?
To Review (from Part 1):
There’s nothing wrong with simply comparing two people.
- She’s thinner.
- He’s more skilled at fixing things.
- She’s a better cook.
The trouble comes when we add value to the comparison.
- She’s thinner and is therefore more attractive, which makes her a better woman.
- He’s more skilled at fixing things and is therefore a better man.
- She’s a better cook, which makes her a better wife and a better woman.
If we come out on the “less than” side of things, we may feel terrible about ourselves and resent the one who is “better than.” We may also lose sight of the strengths we do possess as we spiral down into a void of self-pity.
If we come out on the “better than” side, we may feel momentarily great as we bask in our superiority over another human, but this good feeling can soon turn to hate as we start to despise the other person’s weakness.
From Weakness to Strength
How can we move beyond value-based comparison to the point of rejoicing in the people God has created us and others to be? How can we reverse the trend and turn something with the potential to be so destructive into something that can be incredibly life-giving?
- Subtract the value.
Before we can address a problem, we need to recognize the problem does, in fact, exist. What values are we adding to our comparisons? Let’s take a moment to identify those so we can get rid of them. No longer does my friend being a better cook make her a better wife and therefore a superior person to myself. It simply means she’s more skilled at cooking.
- Look beyond yourself.
Though this may seem counter-intuitive in our self-esteem, self-actualization, self-you-name-it culture, it actually is the best next step. In order to turn comparison into something positive, we need to get beyond our solitary perspective. We need to see ourselves and others through God’s eyes. In His eyes, we are incredibly loved and have infinite value. He created us each to be beautifully unique individuals. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14, NASB).
- Rejoice in and Encourage Others in Their Strengths
Now that we’re seeing beyond ourselves, we can truly understand and appreciate the strengths of others. Isn’t it great there are so many things people can be good at? Let’s make that comparison, but this time, let’s rejoice in the skill of the other person.
“Wow, Sara! That soup was incredible. You’re a really good cook.”
Now , Sara will probably brush off the compliment and argue she really didn’t do anything special, but I’ll bet that inwardly, she’ll feel pretty good about it. The fact of the matter is, we rarely identify our strengths as being anything special because they feel so normal to us. Let’s help each other see the areas in which God has gifted us.
- Recognize and rejoice in your own strengths.
This isn’t an easy step. While we live in a culture that is all about self-esteem, we also live in a Christian-based culture that is all about humility—don’t toot your own horn and all that jazz. But is true humility about ignoring the strengths God has given us? Or is it about recognizing those gifts as coming from Him and rejoicing in them? Wow! God values us enough to entrust us with certain interests and abilities! To ignore them is to ignore God’s work in certain areas of our life. Maybe your strength is maintaining a healthy diet and culture of physical exercise in your family. Maybe it’s trusting God with the well-being of your children, or planning social events, or managing finances, or educating your children, or running a business or….
- Seek to serve others with your strengths.
Though God created individuals, He never meant for us to live out a solitary life. Instead, He created communities where the gifts of each person could be used to build up and support others in the group. How can you serve your friends and family with the strengths you’ve been given?
For example, I’ve used my strengths in writing, educating, and hospitality to help people revamp their resumes, have provided educational resources and tutoring, and opened up my home as a place of fellowship.
When God gives us a gift, it’s never given to be used solely on ourselves but is to be offered up as a way to love others and bring glory to Him.
- Seek to learn from the strengths of others.
We’ll never know everything or be good at everything. There will always be those who are more skilled and more knowledgeable. Think about how great this is! We will always have people to learn from! Most of this learning takes place in normal conversation and day-to-day interaction. It may also occur in a more formalized setting.
For example, I learned from a friend, who also happens to be a Mary Kay consultant, how to better apply my make-up. I’ve learned cooking tips from friends and family members, and health-care tips from other mothers and friends connected to the medical field. What a blessing it is to know people who are strong and interested in areas I’m not!
- Be patient with your weaknesses.
This is an something I’ve definitely struggled with. Growing up, my dad would often need to remind me that I wouldn’t be able to get good at something in a day. It takes time to build up strength in a new skill. And that’s o.k. We may never be the best at anything, and that’s o.k. It’s o.k. to have areas of weakness. The important thing is to be patient with those parts of ourselves. Beating ourselves up over them doesn’t make us stronger. It once occurred to me that God gives us far more grace than we give ourselves. Our weaknesses don’t bother Him. If we are seeking to follow Him, He will help us grow in those areas—in His time, not ours.
- Be patient with and support others in their weaknesses.
The more we learn to accept God’s grace in our weaknesses, the more willing and able we’ll be to patiently bear with the weaknesses of others and come alongside them to help when needed (and when invited to do so).
- Sit back and enjoy the variety.
While most of these steps have dealt with strengths and weaknesses, many of the differences we see and the comparisons we make don’t fit into a stronger/weaker, greater than/less than mold. Instead, they are simply different—beautifully diverse, wonderfully crafted differences designed by our God who loves variety. So let’s identify the differences, and then sit back and simply enjoy them!
The Body of Christ
In 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, Paul refers to Christians as the body of Christ. “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ, for by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many” (NASB).
The body of believers contains people with different strengths and weaknesses. In other parts of 1 Corinthians, Paul encourages the Christians to serve one another in their gifts and have consideration for each other in the areas of weakness.
Let’s make those comparisons, but let’s make them for the sake of rejoicing in the beautiful diversity we are blessed to be surrounded by. Let’s identify the strengths and weaknesses of ourselves and those around us, celebrate the strengths, use them to help others, and extend grace in the areas of weakness as we seek to love and encourage one another.