The Comparison Culture

The first time I ever remember comparing my self to someone else was around 3rd grade.  There was a kid in my class who had a Sega Game Gear. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I had a lousy Game Boy. I remember one day sitting in after care and watching him power up his Game Gear and instead of seeing black and white pixels he had a full color display of Sonic! I was so jealous, and I felt so stupid for pulling out and playing my Game Boy that I never brought it back to school.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last time I compared myself to others. Later that year we had to run fitness tests and see how many pull ups we could do. *Spoiler Alert* my number was zero. The next year Meredith invited everyone in the fourth grade to her birthday party except me and Matt. Meredith was rich, and her dad bought her a horse or something for her birthday. Everyone at school talked about the party for months.

I eventually thought that I would outgrow this comparison phase, but it never happened. In College I would compared myself to other Young Life Leaders. I would see friends who were dating beautiful women or going on epic hiking trips and would feel like such a loser. Truthfully the reason I had to get off Facebook is because I spent so much time comparing my life to other peoples. The tipping point for me came when one of my acquaintances from college posted a series of pictures about an epic road trip he took with his girlfriend in the summer after he graduated.

I wish it ended with seminary. It didn’t. Apparently, I am not as smart as I think I am. I barely passed half of my seminary classes and no matter how many times I applied for the Presidential Scholarship I was always denied. I am sure that has a somewhat to do with my rather brash personality. Nevertheless, I compared myself to every single one of my colleagues in Seminary.

Last week Conner and I went to a concert by The Oh Hello’s. It was a fantastic concert and a lot of fun. I haven’t been to a ton of concerts in my life, but I immediately felt out of place standing in the crowd. I looked around me and saw tons of young, hip, cool people. Most of the men where wearing flannel shirts and were not going bald. I felt weird not only for how I looked but also how I moved to the music.

Confession time. I cannot clap and sing at the same time. If I start to clap to a song I forget the words and if I focus on singing I start clapping randomly. I must have the worst rhythm in the world. This doubles for dancing or even swaying to a song. As you might expect this can usually make concert going rather awkward.

The worst part of comparisons is that they do a great injustice to how I really feel. My wife is literally the only person that I care if they find my attractive or not. Yet, every time I see an ad containing a ripped guy I feel like I am worthless in comparison.

I think if I am being honest the real trouble in comparisons is that they show where we seek judgement from. If I truly only cared about what my wife thought than those ads would have no effect on me. The reality is no matter how much I tell myself I only care what she thinks, there is still a part of me that cares what random strangers would say about me.

The same is true for my relationship with God. Serving Christ to the best of my ability is the only thing I should care about. If in every moment I thought about how in the moment I could best serve God, and then did it, then I did by far the greatest thing I could have done in the moment. Comparison over! No need to compare anything. Yet, because there is this little voice inside of me that feeds me doubt, I question what other people would have done and if I did the best I could have.

Earlier today I had an interview with a potential church. It won’t go anywhere because I said I would pray at a wedding of a gay couple, but that’s a story for another time. The first question the interviewer asked me was something to the effect of “So you graduated seminary in 2014 but now 4 years later are looking for a job? Why did it take you so long when everyone else graduated and immediate got jobs?”

My answer to that question contained two basic points; my wife’s career and my massive student loans from seminary. Neither answer seemed to satisfy him. He really wanted me to compare myself not only to my colleagues I graduated with but with other pastors and explain why I wasn’t in a full time pastoral position.

Later today I had a conversation with my boss about where I saw the company going. He spent a significant amount of time trying to get me to compare myself to the current marketplace and tell him what my salary should be.

In both conversations I was judged not by my merits but rather by how I compared to others. Well in one I was also judged by my desire not to ostracize people. Nevertheless, the culture of judgment and comparing lived on.

Theodore Roosevelt once famously said “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I fully believe Roosevelt knew exactly what he was talking about. In both of my previous examples I was asked to compare and judge myself. No matter how I looked at it I felt like I didn’t measure up. On the one hand there must be something wrong with me that prevented me from going into full time ministry like everyone else, and on the other hand there must be something wrong with me that prevents me from making fair market value. The natural response is anything but joy.

We spend most of our lives looking at other people and wanting to be them in some small way that we miss out on the greatness in front of us. Our God has blessed me with so many things that I shouldn’t try to measure my life, successes or goals against others but rather should practice gratitude for what I have been given. The only way I can think of to do this, is to stop looking for comparisons.

There is a famous quote by Tony Hsieh that says, “Don’t be cocky, don’t be flashy, there is always someone better than you.” I think there is a lot of truth in that statement. No matter what I do there will always be someone who is a better pastor than I am, a better system’s administrator or a better crypto investor. No matter what facet of my life I feel like I excel in someone will be better.

However, I think that quote lacks something. In my opinion it should read “Don’t be cocky, don’t be flashy, there is always someone better than you. So, stop looking.”

If you are like me and you find yourself constantly comparing yourself and wishing you were in some way “better” than let me challenge you. Let me challenge you to stop. Easier said than done I know. But recognize that you are loved. You are loved by a God who saw you in your worst state and chose to love then. You are so loved just as you are.



P.S. If anyone has Facebook and wants to shout out this blog it would be appreciated. I can’t go back, I am too weak!


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