The Lent season is a time when many Christians choose to give up a bad habit for the 40 days leading up to Easter (46 days to be technical). It is a tradition of my childhood religious upbringing that I had forsaken for many years. But this year, I decided to take up the tradition again. The only question was, “What should I give up?”
If I were to take on this old tradition, I wanted to forsake something that got down to the heart of a personal inner struggle. So I asked the Lord to put on my heart the one thing that would do the most good in my own spirit if I were to give it up for the Lenten season.
The Holy Spirit seemed to be eagerly waiting for this invitation to examine my heart. It was almost as soon as I raise the question that I had the answer. “Stop comparing yourself to others” was the gentle whisper that came to mind immediately following this question.
Hmmm…Stop comparing myself to others. I think that would be a tremendously helpful habit to quit! It seems like the world we live in is bombarding us with images of society’s “perfect” people to compare ourselves with on a daily basis. We see pictures, stories, news reports of the rich, the famous, the heroic and the beautiful every time we watch the daily news or social media.
And when we see those images, stories, and pictures, the tendency for some of us (that includes me) can be to compare ourselves to the people we see and hear about. On days when my self-image and identity in Christ is in its right place, I can celebrate the victories, talents and success of others. And on days when my perspective is off-centered, I can find myself making unhealthy comparisons to other people.
In a couple recent journaling entries with the Lord, I felt him speaking to this area of comparing myself with others.
Don’t compare yourself to others, Pierre. And what value is it to you if you do? You either feel better than others and have a superiority complex or worse and have an inferiority complex. Either way you have a complex! But if you establish your identity in me and not in the world, than what do (any of your comparisons) really matter?…(When you compare yourself to others) you are trying to find your status in life. Are you good, bad, best. But the truth is that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and yet by his wounds you are healed and made whole. So why worry, you are only comparing sinner to sinner instead of clinging to righteousness.
Like any bad habit, the goal is not to just quit it for 40 days and pick it back up again, but to form a new way of thinking or behavior that you carry out as a regular practice. To be successful in removing one habit, we would do well in replacing it with a better one. So over the next 40 days, I hope to not only catch myself when I begin the comparison game, but to also renew my mind by meditating on my identity in Christ. My hope is that these 40 days of Lent will help me to cultivate a greater appreciation for who God made me to be as an individual and to see myself through the righteousness I have in Christ, not through the lens of other people, their success or failure.
Don’t feel obligated to compare yourself with me, ask the Holy Spirit for the one thing you could give up to find greater freedom and joy in your walk with Christ.