Wednesdays with Women in Kidmin is about bringing together some of the leading
women in children's ministry to share their knowledge and passion.
For us to gather and learn from each other...to sharpen each other.
As iron sharpens iron,
so a friend sharpens a friend.
The Challenge of Comparison
- Gina McClain
The Challenge of Comparison
- Gina McClain
I'm a professional comparer.
I mean... I'm really, really good at it.
I compare everything... from the way I dress, the way I lead in ministry, the way I exercise, to the way I keep my home. There is no end to the things that I can compare to others. It's impressive, really. Take social networking, for example.
In the world of social networking, I love connecting with people I otherwise might never engage with. In the time I've invested in social networking circles, however, I’ve noticed that my tendency toward comparison only increases.
Is my avatar as pretty as her avatar? Are my comments as funny, entertaining, insightful, etc, etc. Do her kids look happier than my kids?
I don't know if this resonates with anyone else in the webosphere, but I believe one of my biggest challenges in ministry (and in life) is my paralyzing tendency to compare myself with others. My habitual need to 'size myself up' to determine if I am worthy.
How so, you may ask? How can the simple act of comparison impact my ministry?
Side-Effects & Dangers
Well, for starters, when comparison becomes a habit, it can be emotionally paralyzing. I believe this can be particularly true for women. Our self-esteem is often wrapped up in how well we ‘manage it all’…and the addictive habit of comparison is a relentless task master on this front. Many of us never feel good enough because there’s always someone doing it ‘better.’
We even compare our “to do” lists and tell ourselves we should be able to manage our workload because “other women” manage even more than us….and do so with flair.
These “side-effects” can be very real barriers to leading effectively in ministry.
But, there’s something deeper here that is much more concerning.
The real problem with a comparison mindset is that whenever I use anyone other than Christ as a measuring stick of my worth, I am really establishing sinful idols in my life. Constantly looking to others for my sense of worth means I am not looking to God...and I am certainly not putting Him first. I have fallen into this idolatrous pattern more often than I care to admit…only to emerge on the other side with nothing more than a tattered self perception anchored in lies.
The Breaking Point
A few years ago, I reached a point where I knew that if I didn't break free of this ‘need to measure up,’ I was going to drown in a self-destructive pattern that took me out of ministry. And I didn't want to be another mark on the 'Ministry Burn Out' scorecard.
So I sat down and had an honest conversation with myself. And what did I learn?
Well... I learned that I'm not very honest with myself. And that I needed more help on this issue than I could muster on my own.
Enter my accountability partner. She and I had an honest conversation …and I chose to listen to her perspective. The key term here was 'listen'. I chose not to explain, defend or justify. I just listened... and learned.
By the grace of God, I have come a long way – there is hope for comparison addicts everywhere! Comparison no longer rules my thought-life thanks to some simple ground rules that I still use today:
Get Honest – Truth is truth. I can hide all I want, but the reality of what is going on inside my head is going to affect me sooner or later. If you are stuck in a comparison mindset, as I was, it is unlikely you are going to break that habit on your own. Find an accountability partner or someone you can talk openly to about your struggle with comparison. Pray and ask the Lord for help.
Submit to God’s Truth– At the heart of comparison is a lack of faith in the sufficiency of Christ. Meditating on and memorizing Psalm 139, which reminds me that not only did my Heavenly Father create me, but the very fibers of my being are fearfully and wonderfully made, has been a very real and practical way to help break the pattern of paralyzing comparison in my thought life.
Capture Each Comparison - I had to train my mind to capture the comparative thoughts quickly. Initially all I could do was stop the thought and say, "Here you go, God. I need you to handle this because I don't know how." I've grown to a point today where the thoughts are not a temptation. I recognize the corrosive effect they have on my heart and I don't want anything to do with that way of thinking.
Celebrate Others' Successes... Really - So often when we ‘celebrate’ someone else’s success, we do so with a comparison mindset. At least I know I did. Often, when I would hear about someone else’s accomplishments, I would begin thinking about why I hadn’t achieved similar success. Fortunately, I came to realize that when I truly celebrate what God is doing in someone else's life, I take the focus off of me and place it on God (where it always, always belongs).
Women face challenges in ministry every day. We grapple with leadership issues, deadlines, balancing home and ministry life and so much more. When the habit of comparison is gripping your thought life, these issues can become crippling in a matter of hours.
Don’t let a comparison mindset rob you from enjoying the life that God has planned for you.
Take a deep breath…and rest in the fact that the way God made YOU is just right.
Trust Him and allow Him to write your story. Really, there’s no comparison to that.