Thursday, January 31, 2013

Comparing Ourselves To Others


As a follower of Jesus Christ, I have come to realize that comparing ourselves to others is futile—even counterproductive—and unwise. 1. However, since we live in bodies of flesh which push us that direction, we must deal with this issue throughout life.

There are times in life when a thought comes to mind: something such as “Laura, you are not as well liked as so and so…” or “you are not as witty as…” or “you are not as successful as…” etc. When such thoughts come, I must examine them in the light of what I understand to be God’s perspective and then reject them and go back to pursuing His will for me—whatever that happens to be.

To further explain, when the thought “ are not as well liked” comes, I first ask myself “Why? Is there something I am doing that isn’t Christ-like?” If so, I need to change it! On the other hand, if what other people are doing is flattery or manipulation and I simply feel the force to be liked, I must reject the thought as invalid and dismiss it. Being liked is not a high priority in the life of Christ. When the “you are not as witty” thought comes, I ask myself, “Does God say I am more valuable if I am witty?” Of course not, so once again the thought is rejected. As to being "as successful as others,” how does God define success? What does He want me to spend my time doing? If I am doing His will to the best of my understanding, I have no reason to spend time thinking about what somebody else is doing. That’s not my concern.

I love the way C.S. Lewis addresses this in the Chronicles of Narnia. In The Horse and His Boy, Shasta is having his first conversation with Aslan. He asks Aslan to explain something about Aravis. Addressing Aslan, he says, “Then it was you who wounded Aravis?” Aslan responds, “Child, I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.” This brings a beautiful reality to light. We do not need to be concerned about anyone else’s story. We do not need to compare our story to other stories. What matters is that we are allowing HIM to write our story.

I realize this is a thinking process developed over time. It takes practice. Every time a thought comes, I must examine it, consider if it is valid in God’s perspective—as best I know His perspective at the time—and then deal with it accordingly, “taking every thought captive.” 2.

The flesh judges value by what appeals to the senses: what catches the eye, feels pleasurable, pleases the palate, sounds exciting, and smells inviting (what we all “naturally” desire). That’s the stuff the flesh pursues without regard for God. Though not evil, the flesh is independent. (If the flesh were evil, Christ couldn’t have taken it on.) The flesh has desires and we have to deal with them. The evil comes when we follow those desires without questioning or examining in the light of Christ’s example, when we exert our will to trust them instead of Him. Ultimately, we humans will naturally pursue any desire that comes to mind, but as Christians we must purposefully refuse to let the flesh dictate our path, and we must actively seek to follow the mind of Christ. 3.

More examples:

My flesh might suddenly send a signal to my mind that it is hungry. I have a choice to make. Is it wise to eat right now? Maybe I am sitting in church, so I tell the flesh to be quiet. It can’t eat right now. My will has been exerted, and I rest before God at peace because I have chosen to do what pleases Him.

The thought may come, “Laura, you are looking old; your hair is graying. The women around you are catching the eyes of men and you are not.” I have a choice. What does Jesus say about my appearance? Am I to appeal to the lust of the eye? Is the goal for me to look young and alluring, to look more appealing than the women around me so I can catch their eye and make them jealous or catch the eye of some man causing him to break his commitment to be faithful to his wife?

What about a single girl when she has the thought, “I am not as pretty or talented as so and so…the boys don’t buzz around me like they do other girls…”? She must examine those thoughts. When considering the example of Christ’s life, is being pretty, talented, or “buzzed around” by the boys what she should pursue? Is such a pursuit valuable to Christ? Or is it simply a natural force of the flesh that must be rejected just like men must reject pursuing the thrill of feasting on the sight of female bodies?

I think, all too often we women observe a man ogling the body shape of some woman and it disgusts us. But when a woman flirts with a guy or eats up being buzzed around or spends a lot of time dolling herself up to be appealing and draw attention to herself, we think nothing of it. I contend this is the same type of issue for females that lust (in the Matthew 5:28 context) is for guys. We get a high or adrenaline rush off being "buzzed around,"  flirted with, or admired by other women just like guys get an adrenaline rush when they ogle the shape of the female body.

As this girl (the single girl described above) understands herself and truly trusts Jesus, she will respond, “I do not know what is best for me in life, and I will not trust the natural urges my flesh puts on me. Truly trusting Jesus includes trusting Him with everything in life—even appearance, romance, and marriage. So, this girl, as His committed follower, will say, “Jesus, I am going to do my best to figure out what You want me to pursue, and I’m going to throw myself into that no matter what anybody else does. If marriage is for me, I’ll be happy married. If being single is best for me, I trust that You know what’s best, and I’ll be happy single. I certainly won’t focus on dolling myself up to allure the eye of others, and I won’t play the buzzing, flirting  game that would actually attract the wrong kind of man anyway.”

Trusting Jesus does not equal, “I know what I want, and I believe He will help me get it… oh, yes, and in His good time.” No! Trusting Jesus is getting to the point where I say, “I don’t trust myself to know what I should want! I want what God wants!”

Paul communicates that as long as we inhabit these physical bodies—the flesh, we will have to deal with the forces they put on us. He goes on to say that we need not feel condemned for those forces. 4We, who are trusting Jesus, can look to Him for the right responses to every force the flesh puts on us, and we can “walk after the spirit of Christ” rather than "after the flesh.” It is what we do with the forces that matters.

1. II Corinthians 10:12
2. II Corinthians 10:5
3. Romans 8:13
4. Romans 8:1