We are a culture that compares. We use the phrase "let's compare notes". We compare all kinds of things. We compare schools and churches and ministries. We compare neighborhoods and cars. We even compare problems and stress levels. And outfits. And people. And jobs. And ourselves against others. And ladies, are we not the worst at it?!
I think at times comparison gets a bad rap and I've bashed it myself. It has the potential to be dangerous and get out of hand, but it doesn't have to be. It can be unhealthy. But, it can also be helpful and beneficial when it's done the right way for the right reasons. We talk about how the birth of one of our children compared to the other. How do their sleep patterns compare, their color, their size. Pregnant moms always tend to hear lots of pregnancy/birth stories. And to hear sports dads talk...either about themselves or their kids... Comparison.
When the Olympics are on, there's a lot of comparison talk. The scores of athletes, their abilities, their training and coaching. What got me really thinking was the picture of Michael Phelps swimming in a final against a rival years ago. So much "pregame" talk by media about this race. So much made of it and the taunting that was going on by one of the swimmers. Then there was a picture that truly captured my attention. The one of Michael Phelps swimming and totally focused on where he was going and the other guy swimming next to him with his eyes focused on Michael Phelps. Comparing no doubt. Michael Phelps won the race and a caption I saw read: "Winners focus on winning, losers focus on winners." How true that can be. I can't remember the rival's name. I do remember the name Michael Phelps.
We are also a culture that loves to taunt. We are prideful. We want to be first and best and thought well of. Our pride is killing us and we kill relationships hanging on to it trying to look good and be right, even if we aren't good and we aren't right. Appearance means everything to us so we try to knock others off of their game thinking that will make us look better. It doesn't. We look childish. We look hateful. We come off as mean. Phelps seemed to look past the taunting. He ignored it. Didn't look to the lane next to him. He focused on HIS race. He focused on what was in front of HIM.
How much better would life be for most all of us if we did not pay attention to the taunting. You know, those people who love to push our buttons to get a reaction. Those who distract us because we get all tangled up in their drama or arguing with them or defending ourselves. Those who thrive on drama and love to argue. We focus on stuff that does not mean a "hill of beans" as my grandmother used to say. How much better would life be for most all of us if we did not do the unhealthy comparison, focusing on the people in the lanes next to us. If we just ran our own race, focused on what God has called us to do, stopped arguing, defending, trying to make a point. Stopped getting caught up in the petty things. What if we tried instead to, not look the other way, but look God's way. Kept our focus on Him. Said, politely, even if through gritted teeth, "thank you", and then just walked away. Mouth shut. We would be the winner.
If we are prone to compare, why don't we do it the healthy way, and not compare ourselves to others but to ourself. Maybe compare how much closer we are to Jesus this year than last year. Are we growing in our faith how WE should, not how OTHERS are? Are we doing a good job parenting not compared to our neighbors, but based on how God tells us to parent? Is our marriage what it should be, not in comparison to our siblings or best friend, but biblically? Healthy comparison.
One good thing about aging is you've lived to see how much better things work out when you learn to recognize the enemy in a situation and know that he's working to distract, throw you off of your game, keep you from making a difference for the kingdom because we get all caught up in the moment. Staying in our own lane, focused, free from distractions, free from comparisons, free from the taunting always leads to more joy, more peace, more satisfaction, and more wins.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3 Let's do what He's called us to do His way.