Competition versus Comparison

Comparison is the death of joy.
-Mark Twain

I admit I've always hated sports, because what I saw in sports was a hierarchy of worthiness....who was picked, who was wanted wanted, who was valued, and who was clearly not. This has always offended the part of me that wants everyone to be happy with themselves. Sports felt like the very opposite of that. As the tallest girl in my class until 5th grade, I was usually the first picked for things like tug of war, but last for sports. I was gangly, awkward, and my arms were much longer than my legs which did not lend well to any sport, so I got into music instead. 

I loved singing, and I did my fair share of competing, but it didn't feel like competition. I was focused in on myself--on doing the best I could with what I was given. When I didn't do well, I worked harder. I was never focused on anyone else. 

I was on my way home today when I wound up behind a car that was clearly going under the speed limit. I signaled to go around him and got in the next lane, only to see him speed up. My move to pass him resulted in encouraging him to actually go the speed limit. And that's what competition does. Competition uses an outside stimulus to help us focus inwardly on doing the best we can. 

Comparison on the other hand, turns our focus outwardly towards others resulting in envy, jealousy, and bitterness. It takes in someone else's health, background, gifts, age, ability, opportunity, and skill and tells you two things: that you need what they have, and that you should perform like they do. 

But you aren't them, and they aren't you. 

Comparison is competitions counterfeit, and it's exactly what Jesus was addressing in Matthew 20 in the Parable of the Vineyard Workers. Jesus tells the story of some vineyard workers who are miffed that the ones who have been working all day get the same wage as those that just joined their labor. The moral of the above parable is that God is generous, and we can't compare what He's given to others. 

Matthew 25 though gives us the other half of the principle of competition. The Parable of the Talents tells us that no matter what someone gets, we can steward what we've been given well. 

Now that I'm older, I realize what a skewed view of sports I had. Sports weren't the issue here, my perspective was. Competition will always inspire us to do better, lean into community, cherish comraderie, and give honor no matter what the venue. Comparison does the very opposite, often leaving us dissatisfied, distracted, and alone.

And whether we are talking about sports, jobs, family life, school, careers, or ministry, comparison sneaks in like a snake, keeping our eyes off what God has given us to steward, and missing His provision and blessing.

Are you competing or comparing? One results in life, but the other will surely steal it. 

Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else..
-Galatians 6:4-5


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