Comparisons stink. Clearing the clutter of comparison from your soul will finally free you to be you!
There are so many things that clutter our lives. Rooms are filled with unnecessary items. Stuff bursting at the seams of our lives. Demands thick and fast goading us to be ever more busy.
And it is the inward life that suffers most.
It is here, behind our environment and buried under attitudes and reactions, that the real war to simplify takes place. Essentially it is a battle for contentment. The struggle to be satisfied, not because we have more or better, but because we have learned, like Paul, “in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound:” (Philippians 4:11–12 KJV)
A cluttered, overburdened soul, is a painful cargo to carry.
I won’t lie. It is also the most difficult to clear out.
Whereas a drawer or a wardrobe can be tipped out and savagely minimised in just a few trips to the thrift store or the dump, our inner life is much more complicated and entangled.
One of the main clutter culprits I have wrestled with (and still do) is comparisons.
Comparisons, where we weigh our lives by the standard of what others have, do or say is an epidemic. The world around us is driven by comparisons. Billboards tout the latest anorexic, smooth skinned, big breasted beauty and convince us that we are ugly and plain. Rippling 12 pack bronzed hunks in skin tight underwear driving a sleek black convertible tell us that we are less than a man if we don’t measure up. We are told that our life will be empty without a further 15 inches on the size of our already cinematic TV and that 4K ultra HD will somehow enhance our wellbeing far more than standard definition. After all, what loser would want a life of standard definition?
Whether it is financial, marital, relational, ministerial, educational – you name it – the devil will have a well formulated plan to push a mirror in your unsuspecting face and tell you that the image staring back at you is just not quite making the mark.
You are almost but not quite.
But all of this is a fabrication!
You are a unique, one-of-a-kind, never to be matched or duplicated miracle of the Father’s heart. A complete and magnificent slam dunk original who stands head and shoulders above everyone else in one essential skill – being YOU.
Paul the apostle so eloquently challenged the culture and clutter of comparison in the Corinthian church.
“…they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” (2 Corinthians 10:12 KJV)
He goes on to speak of how he was always careful to ensure that he measured himself only by that which the Lord had called him to do. His call was different to that of others. Each of us will be judged according to our obedience to our own unique God given mission, not someone else’s.
Seriously, I spent so many years striving to become something I was not. I looked at others in ministry or business and lamented my meagre results in comparison to theirs. In the process, I also despised the victories and results I had seen myself.
And that, my friend is the nature of comparison. It clutters our thinking with a needless drive to reach for something other than that which we already have. It never allows you to be satisfied and thankful. It befuddles your mind with a perspective that either exalts you above your station or belittles you below the dust. Ultimately, it is a confusing mess that gives you little or no relief.
Time for a good sweep of the soul!
But how do we free ourselves from the relentless need to be wanted, affirmed, celebrated, exalted, noticed and recognised? Why is it that we are so inclined to measure ourselves by others and not according to our Father’s estimation of us as His dear unique children?
These are big, and frankly life-changing questions. If we can answer them and challenge the temptation to compare and quantify by a false standard, we will be free to be who we were created to be without fear or pride. We can give up the performance driven desire to be someone and simply be ourselves.
As a self confessed recovering performer, here are some keys that have been working for me in this respect.
1. Recognise that God’s calling on your life is uniquely different by design
We are not all made or intended to be the same. The variety and richness of humanity is an expression of our Father’s magnificent creativity.
I have over the past four or five years began to put aside my expectations of self to measure up to everyone else, and instead soberly and thoughtfully consider who God has made me to be, and the particular gifts He has placed within my life.
I may not be the most effective evangelist. I am certainly not the most charismatic people-person. But I can write. I am creative. God will not be judging me on that final day according to the calling He has placed on someone else, but the calling He has kindly given to me.
He may be asking one, “did you sing that song?” To another, “did you build that bridge?” And to another, “did you write that book?” He will not be asking or measuring me by the standard and stewardship He gave to another, but according to the talents he has placed in my hands.
That, and that alone is what I am responsible and accountable for.
As each of us bring what we have to the table, the whole Body is built up.
“As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Peter 4:10 KJV)
2. Lay aside those things that strain you to be something you are not
Accepting who we are is a key component of operating efficiently and joyfully. Play to your strengths and quit mourning over what you are not. Learn to celebrate who you are! Papa did not intend for you to live your whole life feeling inadequate. He wants you to confidently live knowing that He has abundantly equipped you for whatever task He has placed in your hands.
As you boldly act in faith, doors open and results abound.
As a writer, I write. I could of course expend all my energies worrying that I am not travelling, or speaking, or any number of other activities that others do so well – and never actually get down to doing what comes (super)naturally to me.
It is as we operate from a place of rest that we see the greatest results. Hebrews chapter four is undoubtedly one of my favourite portions of Scripture. When it speaks of striving it does not command that we strive and strain and sweat to be the best, it counsels us to strive toward just one end – to enter into a faith-filled rest, knowing completely that our God has already accomplished and declared all the good that He intends for us to enjoy and walk in. It takes guts to accept that truth, and begin living it out in daily communion.
3. Live from your identity not toward it
God has perfectly formed you for the activities He wants you to engage in. His vision for your life is so much clearer and greater than you could ever muster in your own strength. Moving from a place of striving to a place of rest necessitates a shift of perspective. We realise that we are no longer working toward something, but from something.
I can only take my own circumstance but the application will be clear in yours to. I am first a son, a valued and honoured member of my Father’s royal household. That is my primary identity.
Like John in his gospel we should be able to say unashamedly, “I am the one that Jesus loves” (John 13:23; 19:26; 21:7).
Beyond that, I have a stewardship, given by God.
This also forms part of my temporal identity as part of my pilgrimage. I am a writer. I am not trying to become a writer, I am a writer. I live from that calling, not toward it. A writer writes because they are a writer. They don’t become a writer because they write. This may seem like semantic gymnastics, but it is actually very important.
Accepting and affirming your own calling, at a core level, and fearlessly embracing it, is very liberating. It positions you to act from a place of confidence rather than anxiety. Completion rather than confusion. As we exercise and give expression to the rich deposit of God that He has placed within us, that unique gift and call becomes ever more effective.
Put aside your doubts, and clear the comparisons from your inner closet. Let your true identity in Christ shine through and bring life to those around you. Walk unashamedly and boldly in your giftings, and fully celebrate the giftings of others without measuring yourself by them.