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. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.
Galatians 6:4-5 NLT
Let everyone be devoted to fulfill the work God has given them to do with excellence, and their joy will be in doing what’s right and being themselves, and not in being affirmed by others. Every believer is ultimately responsible for his or her own conscience.
Galatians 6:4-5 TPT
It’s so easy to compare ourselves to others.
We can compare our looks, our families, our jobs, our relationships, our houses, our talents, our achievements, and our personalities to other people. All of this comparing can lead us into a spiral of jealousy and competitiveness, filling us with envy toward people who seem to have more than we do.
Galatians 6 tells us that each of us is responsible for our own lives, and we should focus our energy on our own unique purpose rather than comparing ourselves with others. That sounds great, but sometimes it feels easier said than done. How do we get out of the constant cycle of comparison, especially when it feels like everything in the world tells us we are only as good as how we measure up to the person next to us?
Thankfully, we are not the first people in history to try to get out of the comparison trap. The Bible is full of stories of people who are just like us; many of them tried (and failed and tried again) to break free from jealousy and envy. The more we read these stories, the more we notice an underlying pattern: those who chose to care were less likely to compare.
The same is true for us. Let’s look at three ways we can choose to care, along with some examples of people in the Bible who broke free from the comparison trap.
See people as people
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.
Galatians 5:19-21 MSG
This passage lists out a lot of sins, but let’s just focus on one: when our lives are spent trying to get our own way all the time, we develop the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival. People stop being people in our eyes; instead, they become objects. Rather than a person who has their own feelings and experiences, they are a body to envy, a competitor to beat, or an opponent to tear down.
If we are going to break the cycle of competitiveness, we need to stop trying to get our own way all the time. We need to learn to treat people the way God treats us.
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
Philippians 2:1-6 NLT
Doing things God’s way means seeing people as people and taking an interest in their lives. Like Philippians 2 says, even Jesus himself didn’t cling to any feelings of superiority or status to make himself feel better, though he had every right to. Instead, he involved himself in people’s lives, thinking of them as better than himself.
How do we have the same attitude he did? The beginning of the passage gives us the answer: get encouragement and comfort from his love. God is interested in us and loves us deeply. When we are secure in God’s love for us, we won’t need to grasp for status or importance. We will begin to view and love others the way he does, rather than viewing them as people to compete with.
One way to start thinking like this is to pray for the people we usually compare ourselves to. What do we admire about them? What needs do they have in their lives, and how can we meet them? Answering these questions in prayer can help soften our hearts to see people as people.
You’ve got a friend in me: Saul vs. Jonathan
For an example of how to (and not to) do this, check out 1 Samuel 18. Here we learn about a young man named David who started becoming popular and winning impressive battles. Two people around him—Saul, the king at the time, and his son Jonathan—had very different reactions to David’s increasing success.
Saul became paranoid with jealousy, convinced that David was out to get him and his kingdom. Even though David was his son-in-law, captain of his army, and had taken care of him during difficult times, Saul stopped seeing David as a person and started seeing him as a rival.
Jonathan, who was next in line to the throne, could have had the same jealous reaction to David. Instead, he saw David as a friend. Rather than competing with David, he became interested in him and loved him because he could see God’s purpose for both of their lives.
If we read the rest of 1 Samuel, we’ll see Saul’s jealousy became the death of him, while Jonathan and David’s friendship only became stronger and stronger.
Embrace every difference
There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.
 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.
 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part!
 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.
 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.
1 Corinthians 12:5-7,12,15-19,21-22,25-26 NLT
God works through each of us in different ways; we are not supposed to be the same. Comparing and competing leads us to undervalue either our own special gifts or the special gifts of others.
If we think like the “foot” in this passage, we believe our differences make us less valuable than other people. We might look down on ourselves, thinking that we aren’t good enough, talented enough, or smart enough to measure up to other people or have a great purpose for our lives. We may struggle more with jealousy, wishing we had the looks, personality, and strengths those around us have.
If we’re more like the “eye” in this passage, we might look down on others. We like feeling better than people, or we genuinely believe we don’t need anyone and can do everything on our own. We tend to be proud, critical, and judgmental, looking down on those around us undervaluing their strengths.
Most likely, our competitiveness makes us waver back and forth between these two ways of seeing ourselves and other people.
Regardless of which part of the body we relate to more today, both are lacking the same beliefs: every role matters, and it’s okay to be different.
“A flower doesn’t think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms.”
When we believe God is the source of all of our different talents, strengths, and gifts, then it doesn’t matter how they compare to someone else’s; they all have a special purpose. All of us are needed, and none of us can make it on our own because God designed us to work together with other people. He gave us different gifts so that we can help each other. In our bodies, our eyes help our feet know where to go, and our feet help our eyes get places.
When we embrace being different, we can be excited when someone else succeeds because their success is our success; we’re on the same team.
We’re on each other’s team: The first disciples in Acts
For a great example of valuing other people’s differences, read Acts 1-8. The first disciples of the New Testament were pros at this. No one saw themselves as better or worse than anyone else, and everyone worked together to make sure each person was valued and taken care of. As a result, thousands of lives were changed, and they were so much stronger together than they ever would have been on their own.
Be grateful for God’s love
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.
Romans 3:23-24 NLT
The Bible keeps things simple: everyone sins. We all have issues, flaws, and areas in which we need to grow. We all need God’s grace and forgiveness for our pride, deceit, impurity, bitterness, envy, and more.
Becoming aware of all the ways we personally need God’s forgiveness can help us not get stuck in the comparison trap. Rather than feeling the need to prove ourselves, we can be grateful for God’s undeserved love and forgiveness. We can be tender-hearted toward one another, knowing that none of us is better or worse than anyone else. We will care about others and want them to experience this love too, knowing they need it just as much as we do.
Be kind and helpful to one another, tender-hearted [compassionate, understanding], forgiving one another [readily and freely], just as God in Christ also forgave you.
Ephesians 4:32 AMP
Because you loved me: The forgiven woman
For a powerful and inspiring example of gratitude in action, read the story of the forgiven woman in Luke 7. When Jesus went to the house of a respected Pharisee, a woman who was known for being sinful came and washed Jesus’s feet.
The Pharisee compared himself to her, thinking he was superior because of all her obvious sins. But Jesus praised her, not because she was better than the Pharisee, but because she was loving. She was grateful for the love and forgiveness God had for her, she was able to give that same love back to Jesus. She didn’t feel the need to compare herself with others, prove herself, or even be ashamed of herself, because she knew how much she had been forgiven for. This compelled her to love.
Pause and reflect:
- Who is God calling me to be kind, tender-hearted, and freely forgiving to?
- Am I more focused on competing with them than I am on how to love them the way God loves me?
It’s very easy to spend our energy comparing ourselves to other people, but doing so makes us miss out on the special purpose God has for our lives. God made each of us unique, and he can help us embrace our differences so that we can spend our time caring about one another. As we learn to see ourselves the way God does, we’ll also learn to see people as people, value others’ gifts, and share God’s love and forgiveness with those around us.
Take some time today to think about which area of love and care you have been lacking in relationships lately. Are you having trouble seeing people as people instead of rivals? Has it been hard to see the value in yourself or others? Or are you struggling to be grateful for God’s love and forgiveness? Whichever area you need help with, talk to a few friends today about it so you can work together to grow to be friends who care rather than compare!