There is an epidemic ravaging our society, schools, and workplaces. It is ravaging our churches; destroying ministries and breaking families apart. It is a fast spreading organism; moving from one host to another without prejudice, mutating and growing stronger, attacking repeatedly.
This pandemic hides; keeping its host oblivious to its crippling company until it is much too late.
It debilitates. It eats away. It breaks down. It kills.
What is this super virus?
What are the symptoms?
We compare our gifts, our churches, our personalities, our looks, our children, our husbands, our wives, our pocketbooks, our ministries, our circumstances, to those of the people around us.
I am a survivor of Comparisonitis.
Both my mom and my sister are Marthas (as in Mary & Martha, not Martha Stewart). They are great cooks and have organized and well kept homes. My mom and sister can work circles around me.
During our growing up years, if you went into my sister’s room and moved something she would know! Why? Because, in her organized, clutter-free room, everything had its place.
If someone moved something in my room, I could also tell, but only because of the void in the blanket of dust!
I will admit, organization and discipline take work for me. I am a dreamer, a reader and a “head in the clouds” type of gal. To choose between dusting or writing, or researching God’s word? Well, one visit to my house and you will see the dusting is not winning! So, whenever my parents or sister came to visit, or anyone for that matter, I would practically kill myself trying to make my house look like theirs. (To be clear, they never made me feel like I was less than they. I made myself feel that way because of the Comparisonitis.)
On one particular occasion, I was scrubbing like a mad woman cleaning places that I had never cleaned before (top of my cupboards)! As if people would climb up there to check for grease anyway!
As I was teetering on the countertop with a bucket of water and a paint scraper (to scrape off the years of dust and grease), berating myself for my lack of cleaning and housewifery skills, my wise daughter spoke up and said, “Mumma, why are you so frustrated? You are not Nanna or Aunt Mimi. You are you!”
The light bulb went on!
I had constantly been comparing myself to others, and had always fallen short. I was never pretty enough, smart enough, out-going enough or athletic enough. Yet, truth revealed was freeing! Once God brings darkness to light, the light vanquishes it.
Peter suffered from the same epidemic as I.
John 21:17-22 (The Message) (Click on to read passage)
Jesus had appeared to His disciples once before (following His resurrection), but this appearance was for Peter. Knowing Peter still felt shame from his denial of Him, Jesus decided to help his friend.
So, three times (possibly corresponding with Peter’s three denials) Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him. When Jesus had asked the third time, it grieved Peter.
Why? It brought him face to face with his point of failure.
Was Jesus being cruel to Peter?
No. Knowing there was much work that needed to be done, Jesus brought Peter face to face with his failure so that he would deal with it and then move on; setting his mind to the work at hand. Peter’s shame was keeping him from being the effective man God ordained him to be!
When Peter answered the third time, his vow of loyalty was more than just talk. Then, Jesus told Peter flat out what the cost of following Him would be… his very life!
Historians and scholars tell us that 34 years after this breakfast meeting with Jesus, Peter and his wife were arrested because of their faith. After watching his wife’s murder, Peter was placed on a cross. Thinking himself unworthy to die like his LORD, he asked that he be placed on the cross upside down.
Yet, on the morning he had met with Jesus, after Jesus told him his fate, Peter showed signs of another more deadly illness.
“What about him, Lord?” Peter asked, referring to John.
Peter’s shame now dealt with, Jesus then turns Peter’s attention to his Comparison problem.
Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” John 21:22 (NLT)
Why do we compare?
Sometimes, to make us feel better in our misery.
Misery likes company. When we cannot find others already miserable like us, we make others miserable with our harshness, bitterness, and plain prickliness!
Sometimes, we look to others for an excuse.
If they are not doing it, why should I? When I ask my son to take out his breakfast dishes in the morning, his response is, “Lauren didn’t take hers, why should I?” It is the old “shift the blame” sin nature we inherited from Eve.
The thing is, someday we believers will give an account to God for how we lived (not for our sins). Shifting the responsibility will not work with God.
Sometimes, we compare ourselves to other so that we can barter with God.
“Look how much I do compared to that person. Surely, God, you should let me make more money.” Then we get mad at God when we struggle financially and think He is lacking in his bookkeeping skills!
What happens when I suffer from Comparisonitis?
I become deceived (Gal 6:3-4).
I also am not doing what I am supposed to be doing. I am too busy watching others!
It is this very pandemic that has a faithful crew worked to death in churches and ministries while others are sitting on the sidelines, too busy watching, comparing themselves to others, and critiquing others!
I also become discouraged. Why is that Pastor’s church so much larger than mine? I must be doing something wrong! Why is that ministry growing while ours is not? So and so does a much better job at this than I do, so why should I even bother?
What is the cure for Comparisonitis?
Focus on your uniqueness.
Be aware of your weaknesses, but concentrate and work out of your strengths. God uniquely designed me – with both strengths and weaknesses. I may be a dreamer and a thinker but does that mean I can ignore my responsibilities around my home? No, it means I accept and am okay with the fact that I will not have the most tidy and organized house on the block, while recognizing that being a wife and mother is my ministry as well. It is wrong for me to neglect my responsibilities at home just because they are not my strengths.
If God had wanted cookie-cutter type children then he would have done that. Instead, He chose to design each of us uniquely. No two are alike. Therefore, our walk with Him, our job, our calling, our life, even our trials will not be the same as another’s.
The same is true with my spiritual giftings. Although similar to the gifts of others (I Cor 12:9-11), my gifts will not be carried out or used in exactly the same way as another’s. Therefore, the way God unfolds my ministry may be very different from some one with a similiar gifting. One is not better than the other it is just…different!
Focus on Jesus and not those around you.
Christ-focused service does not see small or large acts. It simply welcomes any opportunity to serve.
Scripture is clear; the lives of others are none of our business! (John 21:22)
Jesus’ words to Peter still apply to us today in 2010.
Stop watching and worrying about what He will do or is doing with other believers, and focus on His command to you… “Follow me.”
Are you suffering from Comparisonitis today? Is it keeping you from doing the unique work God has ordained for YOU to do?
Peter accepted his medicine and moved on to do great things for God.
Is it time for you to do the same?