This is a tricky issue to address.
It is virtually impossible not to compare yourself with others. And I don’t think it is always a bad thing to compare yourself with others. In fact, I think there are times when you SHOULD compare yourself with others. You just have to be careful how you do it. If you do it in the right way, there will be good benefits (you will flourish and be happy). But done in the wrong way (and it usually is done wrongly) the consequences are serious (and include a lot of unhappiness).
You want to become yourself and not become someone else. AND YET, you need others to model the way for you, to show you who you can be, what you can do, and how it can be done. For example, I learned how to preach by watching and listening to preachers I liked. I borrowed ideas, techniques, and approaches. As time went on, I shaped my own preaching voice, but I needed others to jumpstart the process.
You want to be faithful to your own level of ability and skill. AND YET, you need others to set a standard and inspire you to grow, learn, develop, and become even better. Here we face the danger of jealousy and envy when others possess what we do not possess, do what we can’t do, and achieve what we cannot achieve. We have to learn to see with gratitude, respect, and admiration the greater and higher ability in others, and be inspired to reach higher and dig deeper.
I am a hobby guitar player. I am pretty good, but not great. But I really enjoy GREAT guitar playing. I also know that the level of guitar playing has dramatically risen over the last 20 years, as guitarists everywhere were inspired by other guitarists and what they could do. Suddenly, new possibilities emerged. New standards of excellence were set. Today, a 13-year-old guitar player can play circles around the former greats like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. The same thing happened with the first runner to break a 4-minute mile. Today a few high school students have run that fast (or faster).
You must be careful not to make a FALSE comparison. We do this in two ways. First, we compare the best of others with our worst. Then we feel horrible and worthless. If you are going to compare, compare apples and apples. Their best and your best … their worst and your worst. Second, we compare our best with their weakness. This leads to pride, if not outright arrogance. Why would you do that? Compare yourself rightly for the purpose of orientation and recalibration, and then renewal of effort to move forward with the insights learned.
You must consistently reframe comparisons away from others and toward yourself. Compare who you are today with who you were a month ago. Compare who you are today with who you believe you can be 6 months from now. This is very healthy. But, find the balance of being gentle with yourself and pushing yourself.
Make sure you focus on the stuff that matters. Stuff that doesn’t (or shouldn’t) matter are possessions, status, position, accessories, experiences, appearances (to a degree – a very tricky one), social groups, etc. Stuff that does matter is character/virtue, skills/strengths, wisdom, acts of service, and in fact, all acts that arise out of character.
Remember that social media (especially Facebook) fosters the wrong kind of comparison. Plus, Facebook promotes a distorted display of one’s life. The “Facebook Etiquette Rules” tend to push people to post the positive and put a positive spin on everything. We post a distorted view of reality and then we become mutually envious!
These six thoughts are not the final word on the theme of comparisons, but it is a good starting point.
What other insights do you have on this theme? What have you learned about the theme of comparisons?
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