By President Randall A. Bach
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10, ESV).
President Theodore Roosevelt grew up as a scrawny, sickly child. He was asthmatic and would suffer from frequent incapacitating bouts with the condition. His parents were concerned about his prospects as an adult. Would he be able to fend for himself? Would he ultimately succumb to his weak constitution? And how would “Teedy” (as his family lovingly called him) handle feeble comparisons of himself to his peers? One of the amazing aspects of Teddy Roosevelt’s character was his iron will, his unwillingness to submit to self-defeating comparisons and his indomitable spirit that was resolved to do whatever necessary to conquer and demolish every hindrance or would-be handicap. He learned that who he was could not be measured or determined by comparisons with others. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” he emphasized to himself and others. He added, “Don’t compare yourself to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.” Roosevelt understood that each of us has a personal context which includes an individualized set of experiences and circumstances in life. He wisely stated, “A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.”
Comparing ourselves with others in order to determine our worth is like a curse. It skews perspective and, depending on our motivation, can cause us either to be defeated or to be puffed up with pride that is without foundation. People who are quick to condemn themselves for whatever sense of inadequacy that hectors them will find other people who appear to excel, and they will use that unfavorable comparison to heap guilt and insecurity upon themselves. Gifted and talented people have condemned themselves to the ash heap of worthlessness over such comparisons, which are stacked in favor of defeatism. How sorrowful it is to see a person who is talented convince themselves that they are not.
Other people who are inclined toward proud self-assessments find it convenient to compare themselves with people who do not share their gift or talent mix, and that apparent gap buttresses their unsupported sense of superiority. How irritating it is to see a person unrealistically puff himself or herself up because of a prideful comparison. Do you want to feel discouraged and worthless? Find someone who shines where you do not and continually compare yourself to that person. Do you want to bloat your self-estimation? Find a person who does not exhibit gifts and abilities that match the ones that you view as superior.
Comparing ourselves with others in order to determine our worth is like a curse. It skews perspective and, depending on our motivation, can cause us either to be defeated or to be puffed up with pride that is without foundation.
The Message paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 10:12 states this: “We’re not, understand, putting ourselves in a league with those who boast that they’re our superiors. We wouldn’t dare do that. But in all this comparing and grading and competing, they quite miss the point.” What is the point? Verse 18 of that chapter makes it clear: “What you say about yourself means nothing in God’s work. It’s what God says about you that makes the difference.”
Barbara, my loving wife, has gifts and abilities that I do not possess. She has strengths that I so need in my life to cover and compensate for where I lack. Yet in our early days of marriage, Barbara suffered and needlessly put herself down because of meaningless comparisons with me. [To read her article click here.] My gifts and abilities happened to be more visible in public whereas her gifts and abilities were not on display before crowds of people. Therefore, in her mind at that time, I was a leader and she was not.
“No!” I emphasized. “You absolutely are a leader, but in different ways from me. You lead in ways I cannot. I lead in ways you cannot. However, when we put together our gifts and strengths, we make a team!”
Barbara sought the Lord and confessed to Him the perceived inadequacies she had allowed her mind to stack against her, and I am so proud of how my wife has overcome. She is all the more beautiful to me and to others because of a rightly founded confidence she discovered, not based on how she compared herself with others but on the accepted truth that God had creatively and uniquely designed her to be Barbara.
Today, one of Barbara’s insightful observations about marriage in general but borne out of our journey together is: “Appreciate the differences. We complete instead of compete with each other.” Deliverance from the curse of comparison! Score! Determining who you are by comparisons with others is not wise. Instead, delight yourself in this truth: So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority (Colossians 2:10, NLT). The Lord is still lovingly growing and developing you; He is not finished! However, take humble joy and confidence that He declares you as complete through Christ. That is not a someday-to-become true promise. It is now.
About the Author
Randall A. Bach delights in opportunities to serve the Lord, including his current assignment as president of Open Bible Churches. He earned a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Regent University. Randall and Barbara, his wife, have been in ministry almost as long as they have been married. They are grateful to have celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary in 2021. Randall loves the church, pastors, and church leaders and is convinced that God loves to work through them to make disciples, develop leaders, and plant churches. A voice for Evangelicals, his work has been featured in several publications, including Ethics: The Old Testament, The New Testament, and Contemporary Application. He serves as a member of the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of the National Association of Evangelicals.
Randall has produced and edited several publications and other resources, including the Message of the Open Bible, We Believe: Core Truths for Christian Living, and a doctrinal course for youth called We Believe for Kids! He also led the creation of Acquire, Open Bible’s online leadership development site.