As an athlete, comparison is a part of your everyday life. It is the means by which you measure yourself against your opponent, how your coach decides the starting lineup, and how you determine if you are improving your skills. Comparison is an essential metric to measure success in athletics. The argument can even be made that sports are built on comparison.
However, something can happen on a deep personal and spiritual level when you allow comparison to infiltrate your identity and worth as an athlete and follower of Christ. When comparison takes over, you are allowing a false perception to wedge itself between how God defines you and how you view yourself.
Here are a few tips that may help you reign in the comparison game and redirect your eyes and heart on the One who really matters.
Identify the comparison
A crucial step to overcoming comparison is to identify the source. More often than not, comparison leads to one of two false views of self: self-degradation or self-elevation.
When you compare yourself to others, you are filling in the blanks of your identity with what the world says rather than what God says is true of you. In order to live out of the fullness of your identity in Christ, you must determine what is hindering you from truly embracing it.
Renew your mind
In his letter to the Romans, Paul instructs the church, “do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2).
Social media can be a trap that can easily conform your mind to this world. It becomes a platform for comparison between your reality and the filtered highlight reels of others. Too much time looking at a distorted perception of reality rarely helps how you view yourself and others.
Your mind is like an engine; it runs only as well as the fuel you put into it. Social media is not the sole cause of why we make comparisons, but it is certainly a low-quality fuel that triggers your mind to run wild with detrimental comparisons and judgements. When your identity is not found in the Lord, it becomes all too convenient and easy to fill in the blanks of your identity with what you see online.
In order to be transformed by the renewal of your mind you need to take in more truth than lies. Try turning off the social media notifications on your phone and consider installing an app like “StayFree” that tracks your social media usage (you’ll likely be shocked to see how much time you waste scrolling through Instagram on a daily basis).
Spend time in God’s Word
Reducing your social media time opens up more free time that can be replaced with immersing yourself in God’s Word. By making this simple change, you are replacing your intake of the distorted reality that is pervasive on social media with the greatest source of truth available to you. Install a Bible app on your phone and work on changing your habits to open up the Bible app instead of Instagram. It helps if you put them in close proximity on your phone so that seeing the Bible app will serve as a reminder to be in God’s Word instead of scrolling through your feed.
As you spend more time in God’s Word you will begin to identify the lies you are believing about your identity and replace them with truth found in Scripture.
Identify and live out of your strengths
God created each individual with different gifts and strengths and He calls you to use them. When you get caught up in the comparison game you begin to evaluate your weaknesses with the strengths of others. When you focus too much on your perceived shortcomings, you begin to neglect your own unique God-given gifts.
Take inventory of the gifts and talents the Lord has given you. Discover your strengths and develop them. Try taking one of the following assessments: spiritual gifts, StrengthsFinder, or Enneagram. Ask people who know you well to help you identify your strengths. Rather than compare and wallow in your weaknesses, invest in and develop your strengths.
Affirm the strengths you see in others
Comparison often leads to jealousy, envy and a critical heart especially towards the people around you. Over time this will influence the way you view others, potentially damaging relationships. If you regularly compare yourself to others you may need to replace the act of comparison with another healthier discipline.
Sam Crabtree in his book “Practicing Affirmation” states “Affirmation is the purpose of the universe – specifically affirmation of God”. You can honor God and refresh others by commending the strengths you see in them. Romans 12:2 calls us to build each other up. Consider replacing the act of comparison with building others up by actively observing and affirming the strengths you see in them. The more you do this the easier it becomes and you will begin to instinctively see and celebrate the gifts in the people around you.
In Romans 12:12, Paul instructs the church to “be constant in prayer.” In order to overcome the comparison game you need to pray, constantly, because you cannot overcome comparison on your own. When you catch yourself playing the comparison game and measuring yourself against another member of creation, try inviting the Creator of the universe to join you in the battle against comparison through prayer. He already knows what you are thinking and feeling. Telling Him about your struggle with comparison will be no surprise to Him. He is waiting for you to invite Him into your struggle so He can help you break free from the comparison game.
Here is a suggested prayer:
I need You. I confess that I often compare myself to others. Many of my comparisons are rooted in false perceptions and not reality. I struggle to find my identity and worth in You alone.
Help me in moments of comparison to remember how You view me. Give me clear revelation to see myself the way You see me. Thank You for the unique gifts and talents that You have given me. Thank You for the identity I have in You. Help me to live out this truth in my everyday life. In Jesus’ name, amen.