I heard about a woman who was determined to get in 20,000 steps per day as part of a challenge. So she joined a walking club, but she had to change her stride to match the rest of the group. Now, however, she’s having a hard time walking at all because of the damage she’s done to her feet.
What a good picture of how comparison can hold us back. Certainly there are times to surround ourselves with people who inspire us and press us to be our best. But measure-up comparison can be absolutely crippling. It can work against us and keep us from being our best.Measure-up comparison can be absolutely crippling. It can work against us and keep us from being our best. Click To Tweet
I can think of at least three ways:
When I constantly drive myself to perfectionism and unrealistic expectations, I’m headed for burnout. Like the woman who destroyed her feet, I can’t push myself to stay up till 3 am, work all weekend, or never give myself a vacation or a break and expect nothing to give out.
Eventually I’ll crumble under the pressure—whether physically, emotionally, relationally or spiritually.
And what if God actually gave me my limitations and imperfections so that I could learn to walk in dependence on Him? What if God is more pleased when I don’t get as much done? What if He smiles when I humble myself and say, “Hey guys? I’m going to hang back a bit…” and then walk or work at my own healthy-for-me pace?
When I measure myself against those who are stronger or more experienced, I become discouraged—falsely discouraged—and I want to quit. When I’m convinced I’ll never measure up (like I wrote about here), I inevitably want to pull away and isolate myself because I’m embarrassed about being exposed as “less than”.
But when I quit and pull away and hide, I’m the one who misses out.
Take the walking group example. What if—just a little further back on the trail—there’s a new friend whose pace would have perfectly matched mine? We could have inspired and encouraged and challenged each other! But I never got to meet her because I was pushing myself to keep up with the out-in-front pack. And now, because I’m home soaking my feet and nursing my wounded pride, I’m going to completely miss out… and so is my would-be friend.
Should I really be surprised that I can’t keep up with someone a foot taller, forty pounds lighter, and a decade younger? And what if my shorter legs, extra padding, and lower capacity level was actually woven into my DNA by God himself?
What if God has a shorter, smaller list of assignments for me than he has for those he designed to walk faster and accomplish more? When my assignment list for myself is longer and loftier than God’s list for me, this isn’t something to be proud of. I’m aiming to please myself, not God.When my assignment list for myself is longer and loftier than God's list for me, this isn't something to be proud of. I'm aiming to please myself, not God. Click To Tweet
My measure-up fears and get-ahead pride are tell-tale signs that I’m being influenced by the world and the enemy, not God. And when I drive myself with a measure-up mindset, I’m at risk of crippling myself so that I’ll wash out and before I accomplish God’s assignment list or mine.
And this begs the questions: Will comparison rob me of one day hearing, “Well done?”
Different by Design
Friend, you and I are different, and ignoring our differences doesn’t serve either of us well. I might weigh more than you. I might not be as smart. You and I might move at a different pace or have different capacity levels. But like I’ve written before, just because I’ve been given less than, it doesn’t make me less than.
All of my differences are by God’s good design!
In Jesus’s parable of the talents, he could have told the story so that the master gave each of the servants equal amounts. Instead, he said, “To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability” (Matt. 25:15) – which I’m sure you agree is more true to life.
The word translated “ability” is “dunamis” which means power or potential. A talent equaled about seventy pounds, so even one talent was a lot to lift and in gold it was a fortune to manage! You might be able to manage five talents, while I might only be able to manage two, but like the servants in the parable, we have equal potential of hearing, “Well done” because our master is pleased with faithfulness (see verses 21 and 23).
For each of us, there are “good works [God has] prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10). There’s an assignment list in God’s handwriting with our name beside certain items! So here’s the question. Will we turn up our noses and refuse assignments that seem to small or slow or insignificant? Will we cripple ourselves with endless striving, trying to finally measure up?
Instead, let’s own our different. Let’s work at our God-appointed pace, within our God-given capacity, and faithfully accomplish our God-appointed assignments. And let’s anticipate the joy of hearing, “Well done!”
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