I can vividly remember one particular visit to the eye doctor as a child. After I had finished getting my own eyes checked, I sat anxiously waiting as the doctor checked my brother’s eyes. At some point during his exam, I could stand the suspense no longer and I blurted out loudly, “Whose eyes are better, mine or his?”
Honestly, I really didn’t care how bad my eyes were, as long as they were better than my brother’s.
As an identical twin, I grew up very skilled in the art of comparison. In order for people to tell us apart, they had to compare us. No one meant any harm by this, but that’s just the way it was. I was regularly referred to as either “the taller one” or “the shorter one”, “the funnier one” or “the more serious one”, “the thinner one” or “the stockier one”, “the stronger one” or “the weaker one”, and so on and so forth.
The problem for me was that I wanted to be the best at everything.
I had two categories: better or worse (and of course, better was best!). I related these two categories to every area of my life in relation to my brother, including my eye exams. The one-upmanship and constant comparison that I lived under was miserable and it affected every area of my life. I guess you could say that my identity was completely wrapped up in how I measured up against my twin brother. In short, I was ensnared by comparison.
Maybe you can relate to this temptation.
I will never forget my eye doctor’s very wise response. I can remember clearly that he paused from his work, slowly pulled his chair away from his instruments, turned in my direction and said very deliberately,
“Not better, not worse… just different.”
Not better. Not worse. Just Different. In a phrase, my eye doctor had introduced me to a third category, and though I’m sure I didn’t fully grasp it’s meaning at the time, this category is one that I’ve returned to often over the years. It’s so helpful for me.
God has a unique calling for each of his children. Understanding this can set us free from the snare of comparison. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12,
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.”
Did you catch this? There are varieties of gifts, service, and activities, BUT THE SAME SPIRIT! THE SAME LORD! THE SAME GOD EMPOWERS THEM ALL IN EVERYONE!
Understanding the way God works is so encouraging, and so freeing! I no longer have to view people as competition from a better-or-worse-mentality. That kind of thinking can only lead to pride on the one hand, or despair and discouragement on the other. Trust me, I know. Instead, I can see God at work in and through other people, showcasing his varied grace.
So, the next time you’re tempted to compare yourself with someone else, don’t think in terms of “better or worse”… think “different.” Enjoy the grace of God at work in others, and remember that the same God who is at work in them is at work in you, too!