Athlete, Resist Comparing Yourself to Others
Romans 12:3-6 (ESV)
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them …
I am an Enneagram 3 — and all you really need to know is that I love appearing successful, while I may not always pursue and strive for perfection. It also means I’m extremely prone to defining “success” by checking on my neighbor and seeing how well or not well they’re doing, and then determining my standing accordingly.
It’s … not always fun.
Jordan Rice, pastor of Renaissance Church in Harlem, says this: “Comparison has only two outcomes: pride or discouragement.” As a textbook achiever, I can 100% attest to this.
It’s also a very hungry way to live. The more you check up on others and encounter a small high of pride, the more you crave that high. And conversely, if I encounter discouragement, I’ll want to keep checking up to see if I’m improving.
Either way can pose a strangely addicting path toward pride or discouragement. And in the moment, I might not feel that guilty if I’m satiated with the pride of feeling comparatively successful, then, well, at least I’m doing well.
And if I feel discouraged, then I’ll just wallow in the self-deprecating mess.
But when I head down either of these two paths, I ignore so much of what the apostle Paul describes in this passage: We are given different functions and gifts.
When we compare ourselves, we ignore the rich beauty uniquely imprinted on each one of us. Not only that, but there’s something so freeing and important about doing the work for the sake of itself, free from the motivation of pride or fear.
This makes these words in Romans a challenging encouragement.
It can be hard to resist comparing myself when I’m being constantly exposed to others’ successes on social media, even in an age of physical distancing and isolation. But even if that tendency or temptation is strong, the apostle Paul calls us to a better path: the path of celebrating the diverse gifts we all have.
Not to scale or inflate or deflate ourselves according to others, but to humble ourselves and focus on doing good work for the sake of itself.
What are the God-given gifts you see in yourself? What are the God-given gifts you see in your best friend, your coworkers, your roommate, spouse, partner, neighbor? Take time to dwell on these things, celebrating them, and thank God for such gifts.