As a young boy on the school playground, I remember standing in line with the other boys whilst the two, often self-appointed, captains would choose their teams. The best players always got picked first and then the average players next. Finally, if you were one of the last it was because you were among the worst players. Even if no one liked you but you could play, you would get picked before the end. No one ever wanted to be the last kid who was picked.
Life is full of circumstances where we are compared with others or where we compare ourselves with other people. I remember when I was a student working in a summer colporteur program a daily question would be, “How many books have you sold?” Students wouldn’t care about what others had done but there was always that one student who wanted to know what everyone else had sold to find out if he or she was top, or how close they came to the top.
In fitness, two runners might compare their times. How fast can you run 5K? What’s your personal best? In music, how many years have you played that instrument? How many instruments can you play?
In academia, what’s your GPA? What degree do you have? BA? Postgrad? MA or PhD? Did you get a scholarship? Full or partial?
What car do you drive? What year is it? What’s the horsepower? Does it have a leather interior?
How many views did that video get? If this sermon got more views than that sermon, does that mean it was a better sermon?
In life, we compare almost everything: petrol prices, credit card benefits, which bank is best. Many websites have a function where you can look at various phones, laptops, holiday packages or bank cards and “compare models.”
TripAdvisor has both reviews and a star rating out of 5 for each of the places reviewed. When you are checking which restaurant to go to you may check which restaurant or tourist attraction has the better rating.
Then we also compare ourselves in areas that are more personal.
How pretty is she? Am I better looking? Am I more attractive? Am I taller, slimmer, fitter? Am I more desirable to the opposite sex, physically, than so and so?
Comparison is all around, arguably magnified in recent times. In a world where almost everyone has a social media profile we grow accustomed to managing that profile and ensuring that the world sees a certain side to us that we wish to display. Maintaining our online image is something that many people devote a lot of time to – some even editing their pictures before letting the world see them. People tend to post their best pictures online or post pictures of the highlights of their life – holidays, fun outings, good meals out etc. Very few people post pictures about the normal things of life, the 10,000 ordinary things that we do each day but we forget this when we compare our life with the carefully manicured image that someone chooses to portray to the world
Whilst we live in a world saturated with comparison and it’s not something that we can get away from, we can however live in a way where it does not define our self-worth. Struggling with comparison can often he hardest in our teenage years or when we are in our early to mid 20’s. Partly because life is changing so much and we are constantly being thrust into new environments where we are compared with other straight away, but also because often our identity and sense of who we are is still forming.
This cancer of comparison has plagued humanity since the beginning. The disciples struggled with this as at least one occasion is recorded in the gospels. They asked Jesus who was the greatest. The mother of James and John also asked Jesus if her two sons could be sat in heaven, one on the right side of Jesus and the other on His left. They needed to have preeminence in comparison to the other disciples. Something about them needed to be different.
Our identity can only be fully formed in Christ. When we understand the gospel and we see ourselves as we truly are. When we see that there is no good in us, that all our righteousness is as filthy rags. It’s then that you realize that to compare oneself with another person who also only has filthy rags for righteousness is futile. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that when we are “in Christ” we are a “new creature”. That “old things are passed away and all things are become new.” Let us seek to see ourselves as Christ see’s us. With the value that He places on us. A value that is only seen in the light of the cross – not in likes, follows, possessions and academic achievements.
When you know who you are. When your value and identity is wrapped up in Jesus. When your sense of self-worth is found in the cross of Christ. When you accept what Jesus says about you and not how many likes or comments you got on that most recent picture of yourself online – then you will find true freedom.