Monday, November 17, 2014

Killed By Comparison

Has anyone else ever played the "one-up" game? You know, the game where you suffer more, have more parasites, speak the language better, feed more orphans, build a bigger church, etc. Maybe you haven't played it, but you've seen in played out online, at conferences, or at church. 

Back in the olden days of missions, this thing called the internet didn't exist. People were forced to rely on very unreliable mail systems in the countries where they served, and international phone calls were expensive ordeals. Today we live in the golden age of communication…the tools of the missionary trade include email, blogs, Skype, FaceTime, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and all kinds of international phone and texting services.

It seems like every other missionary is posting status updates and tweets throughout the week, plus sending out cleverly crafted e-updates with professional photos. I haven’t even mentioned trying to keep up with the ministry blog to maintain a perfect balance of words of inspiration, and requests for more funding please! Apparently to do missions today we need a degree in communications and tons of computer tech experience just to feel like we are keeping up a basic level of communication.

Then there is the pressure to network…to retweet other missionary’s tweets to show we are on board, to attend networking meetings, or local missionary retreats. The reality is that the pressure is there and it is absolutely exhausting.

By the end of the day, we are burned out thinking about everything we didn’t get done. A click of the mouse confirms our worst fears…everyone else is doing way better.

The comparison monster seems to lurk in the corners of churches and missionary field offices just waiting to rear its ugly head. The internet offers it the prime opportunity to sink its teeth into an unsuspecting victim. I’ve seen it happen…one missionary posts a picture of their new church, and another posts a picture of their outreach event. Someone ministering to the poor celebrates the number of meals distributed to a hungry community, and another posts a higher number. Yet another missionary talks of how much they are suffering, and someone else comments with “at least you aren’t dealing with what we are dealing with.”

Why do we do this? Why do we “one-up,” compare, cut down (even if it’s just in our minds), and feel threatened by other missionaries? Why do we hesitate to share ideas because someone might “steal” them? Why do we judge how another missions organization in our region is serving? Or not serving? Why do we let resentment and pride shape how we view our work and the work of others?

In short, why are we letting comparison kill us?

The reasons are many, and they all have to do with our own need for God. We have insecurities, personal failures, and weaknesses. We squirm when they are brought to the surface. Instead of acknowledging that maybe someone else does have something valuable to contribute, it’s easier to cut them down to make us feel better. It’s sick, and it hurts the growth of God’s Kingdom.

So how can we stop doing it? When we have so much at stake ourselves, how can we keep the comparison monster from eating us alive?

The answer is simple, yet sometimes is just so hard. Hebrews 12:2 encourages us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Maybe it’s time to take our eyes off of our newsfeed and focus them on Jesus. Maybe we need to look deep in our hearts and ask where we are finding worth…in how many shares our blog post gets? In how awesome our graphics are? Are we finding it in how well we speak the language, or how well our kids have adapted? These things clamor for our attention, but only Jesus deserves our worship, and when we take our eyes off of Him, we can fall victim to comparison. 

Anyone else relate to this? Maybe I’m not the only one who wants to give up when I see a beautifully crafted blog post by a mom who speaks in a perfect accent, can seamlessly recreate every recipe missed by her family, and still has time to maintain a dynamic ministry. Maybe I am not the only one who needs to worry a little bit less about what everyone else is doing, and focus a little bit more on being faithful to what Jesus is calling me to do today.

What about you? Have you seen comparison killing your ministry or the ministry of someone else? How can we stop the comparison monster from stealing our joy and the joy of those around us?


  1. Great post! I think this is something we all fight. It is in our nature to compare - our sinful nature. I find that when I can truly rejoice in what GOD is accomplishing through someone, then I stop trying to "one-up." I mean, we should all be seeking God's glory and not our own, right? Recently I was having coffee with three other missionary wives. One of them has been on the field for over 30 years besides having grown up on the field. She was asked about her ministry and she proceeded to tell us about the clinics she's started, the grants she received, the doctorate she is pursuing. None of it was said in pride, just recounting all that God has done. As I sat there I realized I was truly happy and not comparing. In my heart I heard that still small voice saying, "Tammy, I created her for this. I have given her gifts to accomplish these things for My glory. I created you for different purposes." And you know what? I was content with that! Which is totally a God thing!! I believe this attitude is something God has been working in my heart for years, and continues to work as my ugly pride rears its head again and again. Thanks for reminding me to keep fighting the fight of comparison!

  2. Ditto what Tammy says! If we know we are striving to be faithful in the place and work God has given, we need to celebrate with others in their "God-ccomplishments" and weep with their pain/struggles/heartbreaks without wondering how we can use info for our own gain.

    I do believe it is in our nature to compare. And maybe the problem isn't in the comparison (or in the noting of similarities and differences), but rather when we try and push ourselves up/down or push someone else up/down in the comparison. If we simply note the similarities and the differences, we can be encouraged or challenged: "she struggles just like me..." or "wow, I never thought about it from that perspective before..." type responses. I guess I don't see a problem in the comparing as long as we are practicing contentment and choosing joy... I see huge problems in the judgments I easily make about either myself or others based on what I see when I observe and think about those similarities and differences. I try to practice Phil 4.4-9 when it comes to these sorts of struggles... that verse as well as 2 Tim 1.7, and Col 3.12-14 have really become my "go-to" verses in so many situations, including this one.