The Comparison Trap
But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. 2 Corinthians 10:12
While in high school, I was the tallest one in my family. My son now towers over me, but back then, I was the tallest. So, if I compared myself to my immediate household as a teenager, I was a big deal – at least according to height. As soon as I left the house though, I was short stuff. Compared with the rest of the world, the Abrams are not a tall people. If I’d have derived my worth based on my height, in any given day, I’d have gone from feeling good about myself to feeling worthless.
We may not find our value in how tall we are, but we often allow equally arbitrary criteria to affect our sense of worth. Often, we depend on appearance, popularity, income, level of education, career, or possessions to determine how we feel about ourselves. The problem of course, is these are volatile sources that can never provide any true sense of worth. Sure, we can find someone who’s shorter or less attractive than we are, which maybe makes us feel good momentarily. Soon though, we’ll meet someone who’s smarter or more successful and then we’ll once again feel insignificant.
In today’s passage, Paul criticized those who staked their value in comparing themselves to others. To Paul, the most important thing in his life was his relationship with the father (Philippians 3:8). He found his worth, not in his worldly success – he was a failure in the eyes of the world – but rather, in the knowing that he was loved and valued by God. Paul knew he didn’t earn God’s love. God just loved him (Romans 5:8).
This is us. We are simply loved by God, based on no merit of our own. When we worry about our standing compared to those around us, we’re like blades of grass, boasting that we’re one inch closer to the sun than those blades around us. To the sun, looking down from 93 million miles, that one inch difference is absolutely nothing. We should all be basking in the sun’s warmth and life, yet we compare ourselves, finding value in that one ridiculous, little inch.
Finding our value in comparison to those around us is always a trap, because it promises meaning but always leave us feeling empty in the end. A false sense of superiority can never bring us the purpose and meaning we were made to know because we’re made to find those things only in our creator who loves and values us simply because we are his.