One of the things leaders seem to do a lot is compare themselves to others. It’s what I call “The Comparison Trap”. It is amazing what people compare – attendance, offerings, salary, car, houses, responsibilities, miracles, fruitfulness, achievements, pulpits you preach for, anything it seems that can be compared is compared. This is not wise. In fact Scripture says this:
12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. (2 Cor. 10.12)
Comparing yourself to someone else is one of the most harmful things a leader can do. So why do we all do it – because it is part of the nature of our flesh! We need to learn to live above it, and walk in the spirit! The root of it all can be found in Jame’s epistle:
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. (James 3.13-16, KJV)
Comparison comes from envy. You look at someone else and think – how is he the senior pastor, I can preach better than him, I can care about people better than him, I can disciple people better than him. It comes from selfish ambition – I want to be in that seat, preach from that pulpit and drive the car.
A lot of people who compare in the kingdom – look back at their lives, you will find they compared long before they entered the kingdom. They looked at their school friends – how did he get a girlfriend like that, how did he get those grades, how can he beat me at football? They looked at their work friends and thought similar things, and now they have brought that selfish ambition into the kingdom.
There is nothing wrong with ambition, but selfish ambition causes us to compare with others, and that is always foolish. Here are three symptoms you are in the comparison trap and need to get out:
- You cannot rejoice with the success of others. Another pastor raises the dead, or has a fruitful meeting, or helps someone, and due to envy you cannot rejoice in them, you just compare yourself with them and wonder why it was not you.
- You are now discontented with what God has called you to do. You are frustrate with where you are, and unhappy that you are not there.
- This discontentment will start to cause a breakdown in communication between you and God, and eventually affect your family too.
Now if you are reading this and think “Hey, I am in this trap, how do I get out, I want to be back in the joy I have with Jesus, and the contentment of doing what He wants me to do”, then how do you do it?
Well, I would start by taking responsibility for your attitude. It’s your fault and it’s sin. So confess it, repent of it, and I would tell those around you.. Tell the person you are jealous of if you know them and ask for them to pray for you.
Then, to move forward, learn contentment with where you are, and what you are doing, and what God is doing for you. Be grateful for your place in the body.
So many leaders compare, it is frightening. The ministry can be a lonely place full of people with selfish ambition, envy and a competitive spirit. I go to some pastor’s conference and they immediately want to know our income, our salary, our headcount on a Sunday, all of it – just to compare with me. Don’t compare yourself with someone else, compare yourself with where you could be – with what you dream of doing. I do not have the same calling as you, the same gifts and the same personality – you cannot be me as well as I am me, but no one can be you better than you, so compare yourself with yourself!
I am not saying sit on your backside and go here I am, this is all I could be. No, you can improve and grow – but into a better you, not another someone-not-you. No two snowflakes are alike, no two leaves are alike, and no two ministries and callings are alike. I am going to be the best Ben Conway in the world – I am unique, and I am glad I am not like you. I am glad you do not have the mix of callings, wisdom, personality and desires I have. You could never do what I do. So don’t try, find out what you are called to do and do it.
Be yourself – everyone else is taken. A lot of you know that at a crucial point of being called to ministry, Peter actually asked Jesus “what about John”. Jesus basically replied – that’s none of your business. Do not enter the comparison trap – Peter and John both had very different ministries, gifts, personalities and destinies. But I am glad my Bible has 1 Peter and 1 John and both are a real blessing to me.
Comparing is you saying “God, I am unhappy with you, and how you made me”. Never do that. Be who you are designed to be, and be the best one. Maybe someone else is seeing huge harvests right now. Rejoice with them, and get ready for your harvest. I am assuming you have seed in the ground, of course!
I hope if this is a mistake you are making, a foolish thing you are doing that you repent. That you change, that you deal with it. That you learn not to be so vain, so selfish, so foolish. Life is not about you – it’s about Jesus. And I hope that you find out how to be the best you you can be and have the most fruitful life above all you can ask or imagine.