Grace for comparison

As we undertake the building of our emotional well-being, there are several issues we may meet along the way. I’ve noticed common themes in my own perpetual struggles as well as in my conversations with others. I’d like to speak to some of these in the coming weeks, not to beat you over the head with what I’m sure you already know, but to offer grace for these issues and encourage you on your way to overcoming them.

Let me define what I mean by grace, to begin with. Countless books have been devoted to the topic and we are still singing about how amazing grace is thousands of years after Jesus came and gave us the first ever grace. It truly is amazing: Grace is the most beautiful gift you can give another soul. And Jesus brought it for all mankind (not just a chosen few), laying himself down as a servant, taking our iniquity on himself to give us a chance to go free.

In the day to day, grace says, “You can do better. Try again.” It’s a chance to realign ourselves with the heart of God. His mercies, fresh as the dew every morning, mean we can keep on seeking grace time and time again. Forgiveness does not need to mean that there was no wrong committed, just as grace doesn’t mean we can keep on sinning.

Here is the grace I want to give you today: You don’t need to compare yourself with others and endlessly try to keep up. You’re free from what other people think of you, and you are not here to compete with the crowd. God gives you what you need to content your heart with your own identity and purpose, and to pursue the ideals he has put in your heart.

I’m sure you’ve heard again and again how social media exacerbates the problem of comparison, so I won’t belabor it here. We know there is a superficiality to social media that makes such comparisons hollow anyway. But what about our constant comparing ourselves to our friends and family in real life? Or perhaps the compulsion to compare takes the shape of a general need to compare what is with what could be. A perfection-driven performance mindset that is masked in a seemingly positive ambition to always keep improving. A “growth mindset” — although if we observe nature, we see that growth is slow, natural and never forced.

Let’s offer ourselves a little grace for the desire to compare, first off: as with many of our drives, there is likely a biological basis for it. If we think in terms of our survival in primitive scenarios, perhaps we are wired to compare ourselves with the group in order to mimic behaviors that lead to survival. And we wouldn’t have compared ourselves with just anyone, either, but the group that we perceived was stronger, healthier, and more likely to thrive. So to counteract this compulsion, it follows that we need to know we are safe from the threat of being rejected.

It may be helpful to think of the biological drives we have as the “flesh” Paul talks about in his letters. When we live in the primal fears of our bodies, we are not living in the spiritual reality that we are created in God’s image. We are not living in our true identity when we are fettered by the animal drives, out of touch with our Creator who calls us sons and daughters.

We won’t be distracted by comparison if we are captivated by purpose.

Bob Goff

You are a beautiful, truly amazing, daughter of God. Where ever you are in life right now, you have access to His strength to overcome the challenges and grow into the person you were created to be. You have divine purpose — a calling to be like Jesus and invite others to do the same. God has given you the gift of eternal life and called you his own precious daughter. With an identity like that, who can challenge your worth? When he loves you so much the way you were made, why would you want to be like someone else? Our difference is our strength, each of us bringing different gifts and strengths to the table to create a beautiful, meaningful masterpiece.

Here’s a challenge for you: This week, when you see another woman doing something brilliant that would threaten the old you and tempt you to compare yourself, tell her she’s doing a wonderful job. Let’s foster an environment of encouragement and grace, building each other up and by so doing, building ourselves up in confidence.

I’ll conclude with a quote I read in Brennan Manning’s Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God from the movie Chariots of Fire:

“God made me fast, and when I run I feel his pleasure.” (Eric Liddel)

How did God make YOU?