March 25

Comparison can be good

I Corinthians 11:1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.
I Corinthians 4:16 Therefore I urge you, imitate me.

As long as there are people around, there will be comparison. Unfair comparisons can hurt, of course, and we need to be on guard about the damage they can do. But avoiding comparison is a futile task.

It’s a little like stress. Years ago there was a shift in training on the subject. In the beginning, there were sessions on “stress reduction.” Then reality hit and the sessions began to focus on “stress management,” which made a lot more sense to everyone.

Comparison is like that. We’re not going to get rid of it, but we can embrace it in God. How? By different thinking and by a new way of embracing it.

Comparison can be a learning moment for all of us. For example, we can begin to realize how much we can learn by properly observing others. For example, by comparing ourselves to others, we can learn how to be more loving, how to bring grace to difficult situations, and how to have godlier perspectives on any number of topics. If we think of ourselves as lifelong learners, and of everyone else as the source of life lessons, we can learn every day.

Of course the big thing to work out (notice I didn’t say “avoid,” because that’s impossible) is resisting the comparison that’s accompanied by the enemy’s attacks. Noticing that someone is perhaps more gracious than you, for instance, can offer us the negative choice of turning in on ourselves and listening to voices that generalize and condemn: “See—you’re a failure in this area.” Whether it sounds like the devil or like us, that talk is straight from our enemy. Let’s learn to resist those voices! The fault here isn’t comparison per se, it’s listening to the negative voices that can accompany it.

Let’s learn from Paul, and release the sanctifying power of comparison by redirecting our focus. Instead of deepening the rut of comparison that leads to listening to the enemy, let’s cut a new mental pathway and embrace the many learning opportunities out there provided by God through the people around us. It’s like nature—sometimes we just have to stop and take a good long look around us at the physical beauty of this world. There are many examples God is providing us to grow from.

When it comes to people, let’s free them and us by taking on the role of the continual learner, and grab all the lessons of love, grace and wisdom we can learn. Yes, a few folks may provide lessons of what not to do (“Wow—note to self: Don’t ever do that!”). But if we have the right perspective, and imitate others as they imitate Christ, we can grow every day.

Prayer: Lord, the enemy has robbed me of so many learning moments because of his accusations. Help me to submit to you first, and then resist the devil. Give me eyes to see and a heart to learn all the many lessons in the Spirit that you have out there for me.

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