It can happen so easily and so routinely that we rarely consider how it is a temptation that erodes God’s truth to us about ourselves. We may even know it is something we should not fall prey to yet again, but often we do. And I sometimes think it is one that is especially designed for each of us by the enemy of our souls.
What is the temptation of all the choices that might be running through your mind?
I am not sure if it comes with our DNA or if it develops before we are more than a few hours old following birth.
All those developmental marks the hospital looks for and then all the milestones of those first few years result in comparisons being made. Sometimes it happens in the doctor’s office where we learn this precious child of ours is “below average” or “above average” in height or weight. Maybe they creep earlier or later and on and on it goes. The doctor’s office is giving information that is important to have, but it does result in a comparison and that comparison then shows up in conversations between other moms and dads and grandparents as they share the news.
It’s funny how the comparison starts from something called “average,” a word that is supposed to be neutral and yet automatically sounds like it is “less than” we want or hope if that is where the child or we fall. It happens more easily now than it may have at one time because being “the best” or “above average” is what most of us hope for or want.
That gets reinforced over and over again as we start school, begin a new sport or musical instrument, or watch or listen to any commercial or ad on any device we may have or hear while sitting in an office somewhere.
Those comparisons start being used to estimate worth or value and that results in us internalizing them. Even when we are very young, we don’t need people to tell us what we have already told ourselves about where we stand in any given assessment.
And what are we really comparing ourselves to?
What does average really mean and when did it seem like not enough?
Wherever the standard comes from, it becomes a part of our self-assessment. It can be easy to decide we are either “less than” or “better than” someone else (or even a group) for some skill or characteristic.
The result isn’t very pretty. We can become proud and see ourselves as better than someone or others or we can go to the opposite side of that dreaded word “average” and believe we are deficient and of little worth, so we are tempted to stop trying.
When we stop trying, we don’t bother to study as much as we can or should because we don’t think we can pass the tests anyway. We don’t try out for the team or musical because we don’t think we will be chosen. We don’t start exercising or watching what we eat to lose the extra weight because we will fail again. And the list goes on and on.
The temptation is significant, and it is unlikely any of us (no matter what our age, gender, education, or socioeconomic status) have not succumbed to this.
Paul addresses this very thing in 2 Corinthians 10;12 (ESV):
“Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.”
The Passion Translation (TPT) of that same verse reads this way:
“Of course, we wouldn’t dare to put ourselves in the same class or compare ourselves with those who rate themselves so highly. They compare themselves to one another and make up their own standards to measure themselves by, and then they judge themselves by their own standards. What self-delusion!”
The truth is that the One who created us is the only good judge to determine our worth.
It is He and He alone who has designed us for a purpose and a place. He and He alone is qualified to determine how we are doing what He has called us to be and do.
If you question that it might be good to revisit Psalm 139:13-17 (TPT):
“You formed my innermost being, shaping my delicate inside
and my intricate outside,
and wove them all together in my mother’s womb.
14 I thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex!
Everything you do is marvelously breathtaking.
It simply amazes me to think about it!
How thoroughly you know me, Lord!
15 You even formed every bone in my body
when you created me in the secret place,
carefully, skillfully shaping me from nothing to something.
16 You saw who you created me to be before I became me!
Before I’d ever seen the light of day,
the number of days you planned for me
were already recorded in your book.
17 Every single moment you are thinking of me!
How precious and wonderful to consider
that you cherish me constantly in your every thought!”