A pickle in a bowl on a table at Judgement House, NewSpring Church, Wichita, KS

How comparing yourself to others puts you in a pickle

Have you ever sat and watched someone else do your job better than you? Don’t say you haven’t because we’ve all been there. We’ve all watched someone else–someone younger or less experienced or weirder or whatever–do what we do best better than we can do it.

If you’re a performance-driven perfectionist like me, it’s mortifying. Because nobody should be better than me. If it’s my job, I should do it the best in the world.

Yes, that’s the way I think. Yes, I know it’s crazy. Yes, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery.

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. There’s always someone out there better than your best. Whether they actually are or not may be a matter of opinion, but from your perspective, some young whipper-snapper just bopped into your world and upstaged you.

So what do you do? How do you handle yourself–your identity, your life’s purpose–when someone comes along who’s better at being you than you are?

A pickle in a bowl on a table at Judgement House, NewSpring Church, Wichita, KS

A pickle in a bowl on a table at Judgement House, NewSpring Church, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Galatians 6:4-5.

Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

Did you know that you’re the only you in the whole entire universe? There’s not another you out there. So the first thing to remember is that nobody can be a better you than you–because you’re the only one in existence. God made you exactly the way you are, knew every inch of you before you were born, understood every ridiculous personality quirk before you were even aware of yourself. So whenever you hear those devious whispers that someone else is better than you, recognize them for what they are. Lies. And don’t waste any time on them.

Secondly, who told you someone else does a better job at your job than you? Is that your own opinion? If it’s your own opinion, take a moment and just be real with yourself. Are you doing your best? If you aren’t, then change. If you are, stop worrying. You can only do the best job you can do, so stop trying to do the best job your coworker can do.

Are you catching a theme here?

There’s something in each of us that demands we compare ourselves to the people around us. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know where it comes from. It’s probably pride, because we want to be able to say we’re the best.

But you can’t compare yourself to someone else.

I snapped today’s featured photo at Judgement House last night. In case you can’t figure it out, it’s a pickle. A whole dill pickle. But it’s short and squat. See, whole dill pickles are one of the best sellers at the Judgement House concession stand. They get wrapped in foil and we go through gallons and gallons and gallons and gallons of whole dill pickles every night. It’s ridiculous.

So why, when we can consume that many pickles, is there one little short, squat pickle leftover? I can only assume that it wasn’t good enough to sell. Or maybe nobody wanted it because they assumed it would taste funny because it looked different than its full-size pickle siblings.

Not to anthropomorphisize a pickle (which is precisely what I’m doing), but that’s what we do so many times with our own opportunities. We get this idea in our heads that because we look different or sound different or work different or just are different that we can’t do a job as well as somebody else who is “normal.” And that’s just silly.

Comparing yourself to somebody else is a waste of your time, your emotions, and your resources. It gets your focus off what matters–the fact that God put you right where He intended you to be.

So knock it off.

Stop comparing yourself to other people. If you’re an actor, stop thinking someone else is a better actor than you are, and just do your best. If you’re a builder, stop thinking someone else builds better houses than you do, and just do your best. If you’re a writer (yes, talking to myself here), stop comparing yourself to other writers, and just do your best.

What’s important is that you do your best to the glory of God. Period.

That way, you won’t get caught up in the drama of who did what or why or when, and you can look at what you’ve done and be satisfied. And, honestly, there’s nothing better than being satisfied with a job well done.

So the next time you feel so inclined to compare yourself with someone else, think pickles. Because even a short, stubby pickle is still a pickle.

Two scarlet macaws at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Contentment never comes from constant comparison

Can you be happy if you are constantly comparing yourself to other people? I can’t. But what is it about the human condition that leads us to compare ourselves to each other? Nobody has to teach us to do that. We just do it.

We live our lives and one day we meet someone who (in our perception) has something we don’t have. And that automatically means that person is happier than we are, so we compare our lives. We compare our personalities. We compare our achievements. And we compare our failures. In some cases, it ends with simple discontent, but in other cases it becomes raging jealousy.

The plain and simple truth is that our purpose isn’t to compare ourselves to each other. That’s not how a Christ-follower is supposed to live. A Christ-follower is supposed to compare themselves to God, to Christ, to live by the example He gave us. Not to live by the life of someone here we think is happy. Because I guarantee, if you pick the person down here you think is the happiest person in the world, if you really get to know them, you’ll discover that their life isn’t as fun as you think it is.

So instead of comparing our lives, which is just a distraction from the things that really matter, shouldn’t we work together?

Two scarlet macaws at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Two scarlet macaws at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Philippians 2:1-2.

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

After reading through Philippians a few times, I get the feeling that the Church at Philippi had some trouble getting along. Paul even goes so far as to call out names of people who he wanted to stop squabbling. And unfortunately, not much has changed in the Church in 2,000 years. The Church is still the epicenter of many arguments and much unpleasantness, all stemming from the fact that the believers within refuse to get along.

And from what I have seen and experienced, the root cause of why people can’t get along is that they focus on how they are different.

We focus on the differences in our life experience. We focus on the difference in our rearing. We focus on the difference of our level of education. We focus on our age. We focus on our preferences. We focus on our marital status. And we go a step further. Because someone else has money or education or Bible knowledge, we automatically assume they want nothing to do with us, and somehow we begin to resent them even though we don’t even know who they are. Or because someone is popular or well-liked in the church, we form opinions about them and don’t even try to get to know them.

And before you know it, we have convinced ourselves through assumptions and preconceived notions that we can’t be of one mind because we are too different.

But what does Philippians say? What did Paul through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit write to the people who refuse to work together?

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate?

Is there any?

Not total. Not complete. Not full. Not entire or whole or a word that indicates we have to be 100% alike.

Any.

Here’s how the Amplified Version puts it:

So by whatever [appeal to you there is in our mutual dwelling in Christ, by whatever] strengthening and consoling and encouraging [our relationship] in Him [affords], by whatever persuasive incentive there is in love, by whatever participation in the [Holy] Spirit [we share], and by whatever depth of affection and compassionate sympathy, fill up and complete my joy by living in harmony and being of the same mind and one in purpose, having the same love, being in full accord and of one harmonious mind and intention.

We aren’t supposed to be the same people. God made us different and put us in different circumstances with different life experiences so that where one person is weak the other person can be strong. But because we like to compare ourselves, because we refuse to be happy with where we are, we only see the differences. So we don’t see how our differences can make us strong through Christ.

I may have absolutely nothing in common with the next person I talk to at my church. They may be married with six kids and love chick flicks and romance novels and only eat turnips. But if that person belongs to Christ, we are family. Everything else is insubstantial in the face of our connection through Christ. Christ is what matters.

So today, if you have formed preconceived notions about another believer, get rid of them. Drop them like a rock. Preconceived notions when you don’t know someone will only do damage, both to the person you assume things about and to you. Stop comparing yourself to other people. Stop looking at other people’s lives and wondering why they deserve to be happy when you don’t. And reach out to someone you don’t know. Prove your preconceived notions wrong. I guarantee you will.

And even if the person you reach out to turns out to be exactly opposite from you, you still have one thing in common. And that one thing, Christ, can make up for everything else.

Ivy in autumn - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The dangers of arrogance

Arrogant people bother me. How about you? And I’m not talking about confident people either. Confidence is different than arrogance. Confidence is a surety of self or action or perspective; arrogance is bragging about it.

Ivy in autumn - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Ivy in autumn - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Habakkuk 2:5.

Wealth is treacherous, and the arrogant are never at rest. They open their mouths as wide as the grave, and like death, they are never satisfied. In their greed they have gathered up many nations and swallowed many peoples.

Have you ever met an arrogant person? Someone who is so boastful, so proud of their accomplishments that he or she can’t stand to sit at home and just be? Boastful, proud people usually have to go out and tell other people all of their accomplishments. And they never stop because they can never get enough attention or fame or credit or influence. And they’re never satisfied, just like death.

Why is that? Have you ever tried to get into an arrogant person’s head? Sometimes I can understand why they feel the need to be arrogant, but most of the time I don’t get it. Maybe it’s because I’m just not a very confident person, but I can’t imagine being arrogant about anything, especially if there is a lot on the line.

I was curious about some of the phrasing in this verse, especially, the arrogant are never at rest. What does that mean? Well, I looked at it in the Amplified Version, and this is what it says: “restless and cannot stay at home.” I wasn’t really sure about that, but the more I thought about it, the more I think it’s probably true.

Arrogant people are constantly busy running around, getting involved in other peoples’ lives and business. They aren’t content to stay home and be. They have to stay busy. They have to stay active. They have to stay visible. And they have to interfere. At least, that’s the way the ones I know behave. And they have to do all that because if they don’t (in their mind) people will forget about them.

So really, arrogance doesn’t stem from confidence. It stems from insecurity.

 So what does this mean for us?

Well, no one likes an arrogant person. Let’s just be honest about that. Arrogant people rub everybody the wrong way. So it should be our goal to not be arrogant. And again, I’m talking about being confident because there’s a difference. Although, I’ve met some confident people who act arrogant, and while their arrogance is somewhat founded because they really do know what they’re doing, it’s still not pleasant to be around. You can be humble and confident at the same time.

So what about dealing with an arrogant person? How do you manage that when you really just want to pop them in the nose?

I’m a strong believer in second and third and even fourth chances for people I don’t even like. If you’re someone I love and you do something that hurts me, sorry to tell you but you’re still stuck with me. That’s just the way friendship works for me. But if someone I’m not really friends with does something against me, usually I’m still okay with forgiving them and giving them another opportunity to show me that they aren’t like that all the time.

So when I run across an arrogant person, I try to look past the bravado and the facade on the outside and see the hurting person underneath. I try to encourage them to be themselves. I try to help the insecurity go away, because if you can eliminate the insecurity, the arrogance fades too.

But there’s only so much you can do and you have to be careful. It’s just like a relationship with someone you’re trying to help get out of a sin. An arrogant person can drag you down. More often than not, arrogant people have gotten me into situations where I have to bail myself out. Why? Because I thought I would give them a chance to prove that they really did know what they were doing … and it turned out that they didn’t.

All that to say, trusting an arrogant person can be dangerous. Being close friends with an arrogant person can be harmful. Not saying you shouldn’t be friends with them (if you can stand them), but just remember that someone who is walking around talking about all the great things he or she can do or has done doesn’t mean that he or she actually can accomplish what they say.  

Give arrogant people a chance. Love them for who they are. Encourage them so that they don’t have to feel insecure about whatever it is they feel insecure about. But if they don’t listen, if they don’t hear, step back. Get out of their lives. Because arrogant people really are like death: they’re never satisfied, they’re always greedy, and they won’t care who they take down with them.

Obeying God isn’t a game of hide and seek.

Wouldn’t it be nice if God would tell us clearly what He wanted us to do? I mean, beyond the obvious. Don’t steal. Don’t lie. Don’t murder. Love Him. Love others. Those are obvious. Those are the ones we all know, whether we follow Him or not. But what about the specifics? There are millions of choices to make and thousands of methods to go about doing all of those things.  So which one do we choose?

Example? Do we leave our home and travel to a foreign land to love others? Or do we stay home and do the same thing for the people who are hurting all around us? It’s the same concept. Both are obedient. But the choice whether to stay or go has major ramifications. It’s a big deal. How do we know what to do?

The really awesome thing about God is that He doesn’t hide Himself. He never hides from us. It’s the other way around. Even from the beginning, it was Adam and Eve who hid from God after they did wrong, not God hiding from them. And if we ask Him to help us, He will. We just have to be willing to accept the answer.

Scarlet Macaw

Scarlet Macaw - Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is James 1:5.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.

I think there’s a perception sometimes that we shouldn’t ask God for things because He’s already done too much for us. Or because He’s too busy to listen. There couldn’t be anything more untrue. God wants us to ask Him for things. He wants to give us good gifts. He wants to tell us how to live our lives, but we are rarely interested in listening.

Most of the time, I think we seek Him and seek the path He has planned for us and then, when He answers us, we get scared or full of insecurity and doubt and we shut Him out and convince ourselves that He didn’t really answer us. After all, surely He couldn’t be asking us to do something that is so dangerous or so out of the box! Right?

I know I’ve had this argument with myself many times. I get lost and confused and turned around. I worry and I stress, and I’m at the end of my rope. So I ask God for help (I should have asked for help first before worry and stress set in) and God answers me. But the answer He gives me is something I don’t want to hear. It’s an answer that pushes me beyond what I’m comfortable doing. It’s an answer that requires me to trust Him on a level I haven’t experienced before. So what do I do?

I tell myself I heard Him wrong. I tell myself that I am making up crazy ideas and I go about my day, wondering why God isn’t showing Himself to me. Sound familiar to anyone else?

God wants us to ask Him questions. He’s a wealth of knowledge and information and He loves us so very much. We have access to the Creator of the Universe. We can speak to Him like He’s our Daddy, but many of us don’t because we think He doesn’t want to hear from us. And the rest of us are so petrified by doubt and insecurity, we don’t do what He tells us to do.

Sometimes we have big decisions to make. Other times, our decisions aren’t so big but we still need help making up our minds, especially if the choices we have are both good. God wants to help us make that choice. There are so many ways He speaks to us, through His Word, through other believers, even through nature. He cares about the decisions we make. But He can only do so much for us if we refuse to listen.