by Alexa Hess
When I was younger, the word “not enough” defined most of my thoughts about myself. Not pretty enough. Not funny enough. Not smart enough. Not interesting enough. I didn’t realize then that I spent too much of my time determining my worth based on comparison to others. It was because of the girl in my class’s hair compared to mine that I didn’t feel pretty enough. It was because of my friend’s grades compared to mine that I didn’t feel smart enough, etc. If I could go back in time and tell one thing to my younger self, it would be to forfeit the comparison game.
There’s a popular quote that says, “comparison is the thief of joy.” I think comparison is more than the thief of joy—it is the thief of everything good God has made. Playing the comparison game robs us of many God-given gifts. It robs us of community as it leads us to resent what someone else has or how they look. It robs us of experiences. Instead of enjoying the present, we are consumed with comparing ourselves to those around us. It robs us of seeing the intentional way God has designed us because our insecurities cloud our vision. Nobody wins in the comparison game. When we compare, we either devalue ourselves or devalue others. Contempt grows in our hearts as we look bitterly at another, or criticism grows as we look bitterly at ourselves. In either instance, we are hurting a person made in the image of God.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:12, “For we don’t dare classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. But in measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves to themselves, they lack understanding.” In this chapter, Paul was being attacked by opponents over his authority as an apostle. These opponents were judging how timid he was in speeches compared to his strong letters. They were accusing him of not being a legitimate apostle in light of his weaknesses. In Paul’s day, it was common for teachers to compare themselves with other teachers to draw pupils to them. In essence, this is what Paul’s opponents were doing by comparing themselves to Paul and others. They wanted to be seen as more legitimate and powerful. But Paul does not get swept into their comparison game. He says that he and his ministry partners won’t compare themselves to these opponents; the comparison game played by these opponents shows that they lack understanding.
These people lacked understanding because their comparison tore others down and highlighted their weaknesses. We, too, can do this by comparing ourselves with others so we can feel good about ourselves. We can think, “well at least I’m not like her” or “well at least I don’t struggle in that way.” Comparison hurts the body of Christ because it keeps the body from operating as it ought.
Believers in Christ are to love one another, support one another, and speak kindly to one another. Dissension enters the body when believers compare with other believers. Instead of praising the qualities or successes of another, believers create disorder by trying to one-up or tear down. Comparison can breed competition, and competition does nothing to help the body of Christ. James writes in James 3:16-17, “For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense.”
In order for us to forfeit the comparison game, we must learn to value all image bearers, including ourselves. We need to see how each person is uniquely designed by God and to rejoice in how God created them. Instead of negatively turning inwardly or negatively reacting outwardly, we can praise God for how He has made us and others. We must allow our differences to move us to celebration instead of self-depreciation.
Ultimately, the only comparison game we should ever play is between Christ and us. And we do not compare ourselves to Christ to self-deprecate. Instead, comparing ourselves to Christ awakens us to our need for Him and causes us to grow close to Him. Additionally, the more we compare ourselves to Christ, the less we will compare to others. We will see the ways we are not like Christ as opportunities to learn and grow in Christlikeness. We will see the ways we are like Christ and rejoice in the Spirit’s work within us.
As we fix our eyes on Christ, we will not look to others to determine our worth. Our identity will be so rooted in Christ that we will not feel the need to compare. We will become peacemakers instead of validation seekers. As a result, we will love the body of Christ. We will celebrate our fellow sisters and brothers in Christ and learn from them. Nobody wins in the comparison game so let us forfeit before we even begin.