Have you ever been months or even decades into a work, hobby, or relationship and found yourself comparing it to someone else's work, hobby, or relationship? Although I once thought it was a good measuring tool, I'm now learning that it's one of the most dangerous things you can do to yourself, your work, your hobby, or your relationship.
I was at a church leaders' conference in Atlanta in 2018 and heard Pastor Craig Groeschel say, "The fastest way to kill something great is to compare it to something else." I knew the quote was good, but I didn't realize then how incredibly accurate and applicable it was to every area of life.
Comparison robs you.
I was a part of starting a church called Afresh in Winchester, Virginia, that has seen significant growth in its young life, but I found myself comparing it to other churches who are thriving nationally and globally in order to validate or invalidate our success. I walk away from my comparison always feeling defeated, because there is no win in comparison. I remember this past Easter weekend we had blown our attendance goal out of the water, completely smashing it beyond our expectations. As happy and as excited as I should've been, I immediately began to compare it to the attendances of my friends and online pastors. That comparison ripped every ounce of joy and success that would've accompanied exceeding a major goal. In all transparency, I've even talked about our Easter attendance a lot in conversation in order to try to recreate the feelings that comparison devoured. All that I accomplished by doing that was a prideful attitude of insecurity. Afresh Church isn't the church across town. It isn't the global church in Australia or the mega church in Charlotte. Each one of them are incomparable to one another, because God has called each of us to a specific purpose independent, yet supportive, to one another. And whether you've been doing your work/hobby/relationship for 5 weeks or 50 years, comparison is always a struggle lurking for a cracked door to make its way in and destroy your story.
Comparison can't cheer.
If my success is dependent upon another's failure, my failure will be defined by everyone else and not me. The problem is that we must be able to cheer others on in order to succeed and help others succeed. If I'm comparing my work, my hobby, my relationship to yours, I'm not free to cheer you on because your success leads to my failure. But when I'm not in comparison with you, it frees me up to cheer you on and celebrate your wins. Here's a different way of looking at that if you take it a step further. God is cheering for your success, so if I'm in a comparison trap and cheering against you, then I'm also cheering against God and his desire for you. Here's the thing: not only does it free me up to cheer you on, but it frees me up to be me - and succeed at it.
I can learn without comparing.
Here's the tension in comparison. Sometimes I want to know that I'm on the right track, or I'm looking for more creative ways to accomplish something, so I will compare our processes or strategies or operations to other organizations'. There is an art to learning without comparing, and it's a really thin line that we need to be careful with when approaching. There's nothing wrong from learning from other organizations, but I have to be very intentional to fulfill the identity and purpose that God has called us to in order to be the most effective we can be. Sometimes we lose our ability to lead into the future, because we've actually changed lanes and are just following in another's footsteps in autopilot, never looking deep within us for the creativity to walk on our own path.
Comparison is a liar.
I know I've used our organization as an example, but this is true in every area of our lives. Your parenting, your marriage, your job, your friendships, your health, etc. When I compare, I'll always find someone with a seemingly better marriage, better paying job, better abs, better car, better resources, better platform, better following, better location, and the list goes on. But comparison is a liar; I am everything right now that God needs to do His work through me. I am enough. I am only in comparison with yesterday. I'm going to be better today than yesterday, and that's all I'm worried about. And when I realize that I only want to be better than I was yesterday, I don't have to win a social media argument, because I'm not worried that someone else sees it differently than I do; because I'm not in comparison with them. I can now celebrate our differences and interact with the respect and value that humanity deserves. Comparison will never advance you, never solidify you, never support you, comfort you, or cheer for you. It can only kill you; it will make you implode. Comparison destroys everything great in your life.