Years ago Robert Fulghum wrote his best-selling, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten. It includes everyday pieces of wisdom such as:
- Play fair.
- Don’t hit people.
- Put things back where you found them.
- Clean up your own mess.
- Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
- Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
- Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
While kindergarten provides necessary foundations, God knows I need help with my graduate-level frustrations. I'm talking about comparison.
Yesterday, I pulled three catalogs out of the mailbox (I think print is on a comeback). You've seen these. There are enough Michelangelo-sculpted bodies, million-dollar smiles, jaw-dropping homes, spectacular rides, and "how I made it and you can too" feature stories to leave you feeling like a Tom Brady back up -- I'll never measure up. Theodore Roosevelt was right:
God knows our struggle so he reorients us through his word.
In Galatians, Paul writes to remind us what real love looks like in the family of God. It includes what we do and what we don't:
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Galatians 6:1-5 NIV
At the root of every relational breakdown is a comparative pride, setting myself up as better than others. Living in and by the law of Christ -- the law of love -- that whole attitude gets dumped at the curb, replaced by a desire to help others and a refusal to compare.
When I start comparing, I will inevitably feel a little "better than" or a little "less than." "Better than" leads to holier than thou, while "less than" leads to I'm such a loser. Both approaches are debilitating.
There is a better way: "REST IN."
When I rest in what God has done for me in Jesus, I break free from the comparison trap. I don't cop a holier than thou attitude because I am NOT better than anyone. My righteousness comes courtesy of Jesus. And I don't grovel in the mire of I'm such a loser because I know I am highly loved by God and gifted for his work.
REST IN reorients my focus to Christ which in turn helps me to live in the way of Christ. Jesus frees me from thinking about me all the time (what I have and what I don't) and start thinking about you (what you need and how I can help).
Are you caught in the comparison trap? Break free. It starts with a shift in focus. Look to what Jesus did for you at the cross. You are rich beyond measure: Rich in grace. Rich in forgiveness. Rich in acceptance.
Rest in your riches. You are loved by the Father. You have nothing to boast about and nothing to prove.
Shifting your gaze helps shifting your perspective. Instead of comparing, focus on sharing the grace, forgiveness, acceptance you have received.
God's love received and given -- that's the key that unlocks the comparison trap.