Dear God, I wish I was more like them!
In an earlier blog I looked at a parable that Jesus told about a Pharisee and a tax-collector. In the parable the Pharisee was guilty of the sin of self-righteousness because he felt he was better than the tax collector. In this blog, I want to look at the other side of this comparison coin: the sin of self-condemnation.
Whenever we compare ourselves to someone, we either think we are better (self-righteousness) or we think we are worse (self-condemnation). We should not be comparing ourselves to anyone else at all. Each of us is uniquely created. Each of us is an original. There is no one else in the entire world like you. Yes, there are people with similar personalities, likes and talents. But no one thinks or feels the way you do, because they are not you. Typically we compare our intelligence, money, status, talents, looks or achievements with that of others. These really are silly comparisons. If we have more than someone in a particular area, we are prone to feel better about ourselves and fall into self-righteousness. However, most of the time it seems that we feel we don’t measure up in some area so we begin to feel like we are less than someone. It seems that we base our identity on the comparison. We, as a flawed, imperfect human being, are comparing ourselves to other flawed, imperfect human beings. It’s like a parent who constantly compares one child to the other. The results are always devastating.
The end result of feeling “less-than” is usually self-condemnation. We tend to not like ourselves as much because we don’t measure up. We could be more. We should be more. Why can we not just accept ourselves where we are? A lot of people have battled this self-condemnation. It’s a mental and emotional prison.
Condemnation is from the devil. He is known in the Bible as the accuser of the brethren. He consistently gets us to doubt ourselves and doubt God. When we compare ourselves to others and feel that we come up short, then we are condemning ourselves as not being good enough. But again, you must look at what you are comparing yourself to….another flawed, imperfect human being.
We must learn to look at ourselves as God sees us. If you are believer in Christ then you are righteous and blameless. You are holy. As a Christ-follower, we are compared to Christ. Guess what? We always measure up because of His work on the cross for us and in us. I know that many people struggle with this because they are so aware of all of their flaws. Christ has taken care of our flaws in Himself. Therefore, we don’t have to compare ourselves to others; we compare ourselves to His finished work on our behalf.
Some would say that they could never measure up to Christ because He lived a sinless, perfect life. That’s true. But we are not comparing ourselves to how well Jesus lived. We are accepting the fact that His work on the cross was enough to take care of all my flaws, imperfections and mess ups. His finished work on the cross was enough to take me from “less than” to “equal to”. I am equal to Jesus because of what He did for me. You are too.
Let me give a personal example of the comparison trap. Many pastors, myself included, compare ourselves with other pastors based upon how many people we have in our congregation. If a pastor has more than us then we don’t feel as good about ourselves. If we have more than another pastor then we feel better. This is terrible but it goes on all the time. It comes out of a sense of insecurities and a lack of understanding of our completeness in Christ. We tend to think that to have more is better. However, as a pastor I must learn that pastoring is what I do, it’s not who I am. I am a child of God. That’s where I get my identity from. Many pastors still try to get their identity from what they do. When we do this, we will always fall into the comparison trap.
Another area of comparison that many Christians fall into is the area of “spiritual maturity.” Christians often will look at each other and compare their spirituality based upon their “works” such as Bible reading, prayer lives, giving, etc. Many people don’t feel as spiritual as someone else who may read their Bibles more, pray more or even be a better public speaker than they are. However, these are faulty measures. We don’t earn God’s grace by being as good as or even better than someone else. We get God’s grace through simple faith. Nothing more, nothing less.
In the parable that Jesus told, the publican (or the sinner) wouldn’t even go up to the front of the synagogue. Instead, he stayed in the back and simply asked God for mercy. He didn’t compare himself to the Pharisee or to anyone else. He recognized his need for the mercy and grace of God. When we ask for mercy God isn’t going to condemn us. He lovingly responds with mercy and grace.
We must learn to stop condemning ourselves because we don’t “measure up” to someone else. Celebrate the fact that you are unique and that you are an original. Don’t fall into the sin of comparison by self-condemning yourself.
Are you struggling with feeling “less than” someone else? Why? What makes you feel that you have to measure up to them?