We tend to be pendulum swingers. If we struggle in a particular way, we push back too hard in the opposite direction.
This often happens with the topic of comparison, especially among women. Because there are so many sinful ways we’re tempted to compare, we’ve overcompensated. “Be content with who you are” has been repackaged a thousand different ways.
Many of the warnings are true and important! Sinful comparison is obsessed with superficial standards. It stirs discontentment, making us wish we were as creative as that mom or as talented as that friend. Sinful comparison chokes God’s work in us and incites resentment towards others, feeding self-pity if we think we don’t measure up and self-righteousness when we think we do.
But the solution to sinful comparison is not to live fiercely independent lives that are unwilling to be challenged by others, abiding by the mantra “I am enough.” The solution to sinful comparison is to rest in Jesus’ righteousness while we seek to grow more like Him.
And here’s the thing: learning from other Christians is a part of God’s design to conform us into the image of Christ.
As iron sharpens iron, our strengths should sharpen each other’s weaknesses. The one who is gifted in hospitality can sharpen the one who neglects it. The one who is gifted in generosity can sharpen the one tempted towards greed. The one who is gifted in encouragement can sharpen the one who tends to be critical. If we’re unwilling to be sharpened by each other, we’ll grow spiritually dull.
One way God helps us become more like Him is by surrounding us with Christians who reflect Him in ways that we don’t. And if we’re not careful, a good fight against sinful comparison can inadvertently morph into an unwillingness to learn from others, robbing us of opportunities to grow!
My sister is a joyful servant. She is sensitive to others’ needs and proactively helps in whatever ways she is able (usually at a cost to her schedule and desires). She’s so happy to serve that she makes you feel as if you’re doing her the favor, even though it’s the other way around! I’m not inclined this way. I am rarely proactive, often inflexible, and love a good excuse to say “no”. My aversion to unexpected requests for help is so apparent that when asking for a favor, my sister often jokes, “I know you’d rather sell all of your possessions to give to the poor, but would you mind babysitting for me tomorrow?” An exaggeration, maybe, but not that far from the truth!
My mother-in-law is extremely hospitable. She loves inviting others into her home, cooking for them, and fellowshipping for hours on end. This is another area I’m weak. I don’t particularly enjoy hospitality. Frankly, I don’t want to be bothered with extra house work. I also get a little stressed by open-ended visits without a clear end time.
Should I really look at my sister’s gift of service and my mother-in-law’s gift of hospitality and conclude, “Well, we’re just different parts of the Body. God’s gifted me in the area of generosity, so I don’t need to worry about those other things.”
No! Service and hospitality are ways to image Christ, and I am called to that!
That’s not to say that the particular expressions of hospitality or service need to look identical. I don’t need to host huge dinner parties like my mother-in-law or serve in the same ways as my sister. But I should look to their examples and consider how I can grow to imitate my Savior as they do. He welcomes the lonely and turns strangers into friends. My mother-in-law excels at this, so I should learn from her! He came not to be served but to serve. My sister excels at this, so I should learn from her! This is not in an effort to measure up to them, but because I want to be more like Him.
When we are stirred by one another to grow in ways that are unnatural to us, it points all the more to God’s grace at work. It tears down the pride we’re tempted to find in our strengths, and testifies to His faithfulness to sanctify our weaknesses.
So go, look for examples, find people you want to be like—not because you’re trying to meet a standard but because you want to be more like Christ.
And when the world looks at the Church and sees a whole bunch of people with different personalities, gifts, strengths, and weaknesses, all sharing traits we’ve inherited from our Father, they will see evidence of His transforming grace.