I need to be great. I need to be noticed. And in order to know that you are noticing just how great I am, I will compare myself to others. At least, that is how the book stacks all of this up. (And for the record, I agree with the book.)
It is hard not to compare yourself to others. I do it all the time. As a parent, I will watch how other children act in public. I will observe that they are acting A) Better than my child B) Worse than my child C) On par with my child or D) I am way too tired to know who's child is yelling and screaming. Then, from my quick and hasty observation, I will conclude that A) I am a terrible mother B) I am a terrific mother C) I am the same as the other mother--We should schedule a playdate! or D) Where the heck is my coffee?!?!
Comparisons are a way to self-assess, but they are not necessarily a good way. Here are three mistakes I think we will make when we are quick to compare:
1. I assume too little of myself.
It is far too easy to beat yourself up when you are comparing yourself to someone else. Give yourself some credit. You're not as big of a screw-up as you think you are.
One time when Jack was just weeks old, I decided to take the kids to the zoo on a playdate with my MOPS group. I guess Sammi was having backlash from being cooped up in the house with me and her baby brother for the past few weeks, because she was just going crazy!! She had found one of her little playmates from Sunday School and they were running all over the place. Weaving in and out of crowds of people, bursting in and out of different exhibits...it was ridiculous! I thought I was going to lose her! And I couldn't get her attention to stop her. Eventually, I had to go to my last resort...I ran full speed after her (with her newborn brother along for the ride in the stroller) yelling "SAMANTHAAAAA!!! STOOOOPPP!!!!" No dice. She still kept right on running along with her friend. As I was still running, I hear the other child's mother from yards behind say (at a very reasonable volume,) "Son. Come here, please." What did her little boy do? He left my crazy daughter out there running by herself and immediately complied to the controlled request of his mother. I had never felt like a bigger failure. It was like pouring salt into an open wound. I was so embarassed for myself and my child, I almost decided then and there that I would never go to MOPS again. What was I doing so wrong that my kid would not listen to me even when I was chasing after her? How was the other mother so much better than me that her kid didn't even have to be yelled at?
Thankfully, I could blame my over-reaction on my lack of sleep and jacked up hormones from having just delivered a baby...which was totally true. But I also knew that I had freaked out a little because I was self-conscious. That was my first outing as a mom of two, and I had no idea how I was going to handle it. In fact, I was worried about how I was going to handle having two kids in general, not just out in public. And because I was unsure of myself, I was too willing to compare myself to other people to see how I was stacking up. That was dumb. Am I a perfect mom? Heck no. But I am the perfect mom for my kids, or else God would have never given them to me. (By the way, Sammi does much better when we are out now. lol)
2. I assume too little of the other person.
When you make a hasty assumption about someone else during a brief encounter, you wind up looking like a fool. I love this story...
When my husband and I were still in college, he worked as an independent home contractor. He was a jack of all trades: you name it, he did it...roofing, tiling, minor plumbing, electrical, interior and exterior repair. (Yes, yes. I know. He is very handy!!) Of course, all of this hard work out in the heat of central Texas made him pretty dirty, sweaty, and smelly by the end of the day. One day after work, he went to pick up a take-and-bake pizza from Papa Murphy's.
When he got home he asked, "Do I look especially dumb to you today?"
"Because when I went to pick up the pizza, the guy at the counter looked at me all funny and said, 'Um, do you need me to read these cooking instructions for you?'"
I have never laughed so hard. My husband was about to graduate Cum Laude from Texas A&M while working 70+ hours a week to support his wife and child and was weeks away from being commissioned as an officer into the United States Army...and this high school kid thought that he couldn't read!
My husband never told me what he said to that poor kid...but I'm sure he will never make a hasty comparison like that again :)
3. I assume too much of myself.
Sometimes, we really do stack up well against other people and are given "high places of honor." But then we let it go to our head and we think we are better than we actually are. Maybe you've done this to someone. Maybe you have had it done to you. Today, someone who often discusses her husband's rank flaunted it in front of me while we were having an open group discussion. (It's higher than my husband's, but not by as much as she thinks it is. And of course, she doesn't know it because I do not give out that information to practical strangers.) I would like to think that this lady (who also happens to be the name-dropper I have referred to in the past) was using her husband's rank as a persuasive factor to make her point, or even as a bragging right. And maybe she was. But she also did it at the expense of belittling me, whilst using her "expertise" to guess my husband's rank--and she was way off. And I know with everything I said last night, that shouldn't matter much, but it hurt me. When the ranking system is used defensively against you, it's hard not to want to throw a title in there. I wanted to say, "Look here, Miss Snooty Pants! My husband is an officer too, so don't go making your assumptions about me!" But I didn't. First of all, because her husband was with her and had just returned from the War in Iraq, so I didn't want to cause a scene in front of him. But also, because it really wasn't worth it. One day, someone somewhere is going to kick her off her high horse, and it doesn't need to be me.
In fact, I feel like God put this lady into my life while I am working through this series because she totally bugs me, and He is trying to see if I am really serious about loving EVERYONE. Pray for me...and for her. She is a challenging person for me to deal with right now.
Here's what I think...if that matters at all to anyone else at this point...
It is just too easy to compare ourselves to other people; we may not ever be able to stop comparing ourselves. So why not channel our tendency to compare into looking at how we stack up next to Jesus. Because then, we will all fall short of the only acceptable standard, and we will be able to take our rightful place as humble sinners. There. Now we are all on the same level.