1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass supreme. Her name was Bessy, and she was my freedom. She sat six on her bench seats and once up to highway speeds, nothing could stop her. I wired a house speaker in the trunk to give a little more boom to her bass. She was beautiful. Then I met Jason’s T-Bird. Faster, newer, cooler. It had lowered suspension custom wheels and an actual sub in the trunk that could make the license plate frame rattle. I wanted one… or even better… I wanted something slightly better than his.
This was just an internal comparison game in high school, but I’ve found that much of life operates on the comparison culture. Who makes more money? Who has the nicer car? Who lives in the better neighborhood? Who’s the better friend? Employee? Employer? Who looks better? The list of comparisons is endless? Even in religion (or perhaps especially in religion). Who is more godly? Who knows more about the Bible? Who serves more? Who sings most passionately during worship? All of these can be wrapped up in comparison as well.
If you want to find contentment it will not be at the top of the achievement tower. There’s a reason so many of the wealthy and famous end up spinning into addiction and life implosion. They got what they thought would give them meaning, acceptance, and worth, and they discovered the truth learned by Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes; meaningless, meaningless. It’s all meaningless. So where can we find meaning that is true and lasting?
For years my life was dominated by comparison. I was constantly under pressure to be better, have better, or do better than others. What worse, was that I thought achievement by comparison would actually give me the satisfaction I craved.
Then I encountered God and experienced his radical acceptance of me that was not based on me, my performance, my achievements, or my abilities. Instead my worth and acceptance was united to Jesus, his work on the cross, his achievements, and his ability to be what I could not. Best of all, all of who he is and what he did was attributed to my life’s record by an act we call faith. It’s a free gift that sets us free.
The competition mode was over. I no longer had to prove myself against the backdrop of others because all that I needed was given to me in Jesus. I no longer had to “be the right kind of person” who would be accepted since my acceptance tank was filled to overflowing by God’s love in Jesus. I finally began to break free from a life driven by comparison to my peers, and I became free to serve, free to give, free to live with no comparison strings attached.
The more we understand the love that rests upon us in Jesus, the more we will break free from the comparison curse that slithers into our hearts.
When freed from the comparison curse we can approach each day as an opportunity to pour into others with no needs or no expectations, as a people who contribute rather than compare. We can contribute to the joy of others instead of fighting for our own temporary joys because at the right hand of God we have access to the fullest joy. We can forgive when slighted because we have been forgiven. We can love in the face of opposition because we were loved when we were loved in our opposition.
There is no longer a need to prove ourselves in comparison with others because we can now live in an operating system of God’s love. It’s a way of living where we are approved, accepted, and wrapped into God’s cosmic story. In this story we are still tasked to work, tasked to do great things, but the motivation of our lives is now rooted in how we can contribute to others instead of how we compare to others.