We compare the number of followers and likes we have on social media. We compare our grades and the prestige of our schools. We compare our job titles and salaries.
In today’s society where we’re told competition is inevitable, comparison just seems to be a natural by-product. We’re engaged in a constant struggle to keep up. We’re easily wound up in jealousy and comparison. How can we ever keep up, we wonder.
Here are three handles – adapted from a sermon preached by Senior Pastor Jeffrey Chong of Hope Church Singapore in November 2016 – to help you adopt a Godly perspective to exit the hamster wheel of comparison, and learn to truly rejoice in the successes of others.
HOW TO OVERCOME THE SPIRIT OF COMPARISON
1. Celebrate each other’s successes
It’s generally easier for us to suffer with others easier than to rejoice with them. If someone is doing badly, it’s easy for us to offer comforting words and a shoulder to lean on — because we can do it from a vantage point that says, “Poor thing, I’m stronger than you.” It’s from a position of strength.
But when we have to celebrate with someone else’s successes, we are coming from a position that “he/she is better than me”. That’s what makes it difficult for many of us – acting from a position of weakness.
If we can’t bring ourselves to do this, we’re like King Saul, insecure and irked by the fact that the people honoured David more than him (1 Samuel 18:6).
God’s Word teaches us to intentionally celebrate the successes of others. This means that when someone does better than us, we do not envy. When we do better than others, we do not boast (1 Corinthians 13:4). And similarly, if someone isn’t doing as well as we are, we must learn to emphasise and suffer alongside. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:26).
2. Compare yourself with … yourself
Saul started to compare himself with David instead of focusing on his own reputation as a great warrior (1 Samuel 18:8). In the light of what others were saying about David, the reigning king became displeased and discontented with his own achievements – even though nothing had changed about what Saul had done.
When we start to compare ourselves against others and find out that we’re doing better than others, we run the risk of becoming proud. On the other hand, when we realise that others are doing better than us, we’re at risk of becoming jealous. Comparing is generally a fruitless exercise; the truth is we’re called to take pride in what we achieve without comparing it against someone else (Galatians 6:4).
God has a special, individual race marked out for each of us. With our unique gifts and all the doors that God has opened for us, we should strive towards being the best that God has destined for us to be (Hebrews 12:1-2). And it doesn’t matter how the world views that.
This is the secret to being contented and yet not complacent.
3. Collaborate, don’t compete
If only Saul chose to fight alongside David, not against him. Can you imagine what a powerful duo they would have become? Yet Saul chose to try to get rid of the competition (1 Samuel 18:10-16).
We may not be attempting to assassinate our competitors like Saul, but our desire to compete can manifest in other ways. We may slander others or be sceptical and sardonic towards others’ successes.
There is critical thinking (discernment is good), and then there is a critical heart. This critical heart prevents us from celebrating with others and affirming them. We try to make make others smaller, just so we can appear bigger.
If someone is doing better than us, instead of defaulting to envy, perhaps we can stop to think about what we can learn from them to improve ourselves.
When Saul chose to compare and compete instead of collaborating and learning from David, he ended up being the biggest loser instead.
The reason that David had many great successes in his life was that he had the ultimate collaborator (1 Samuel 18:12, 1 Samuel 18:14). At the end of the day, the only partnership we need to have is with God.