What is it that you reach for? How do you compare yourself with others? Maybe with appearance, home, relationships, role, position, involvement?
Our family has moved twice in the last few years, to a new place where I was not known. I have felt the temptation to be known for how I look, what I can do, and who I know – and been keenly aware of my lack of involvement and connections. While this has been hard, it has been a wonderful opportunity to journal and explore my heart with Jesus. So, I share this post with you…
We naturally want to be great! We want to be seen, but there is always someone with more knowledge or position, with a more attractive image, or is more “in” (with a group or what’s going on).
This comparison creates a sense of competition, like there’s limited spaces to be at the top. Even in Christian circles, we are drawn upward to desire more visibility, influence, and success. As one person seems to attain something, we sense there is less opportunity for ourselves.
But Jesus, says,
“Not so with you.” Luke 22:26, ESV
This phrase was spurred on by a conversation: “A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves'” (verses 22-27).
As far as greatness goes, there are few spaces at the top. We see vertically, looking up or down.
But not so with love!
With love, there can always be more! We see horizontally, looking at each other with love.
There is no competition, nor limited opportunity, but rather the possibility for love to abound more and more. As we show love, the other person is invited to receive love and give it to yet more people.
Henri Nouwen shares similar thoughts in the book, The Selfless Way of Christ:
“Our vocation as Christians is to follow Jesus on his downward path and to become witnesses to God’s compassion in the concrete situation of our time and place. Our temptation is to let needs for success, visibility, and influence dominate our thoughts, words, and action to such an extent that we are gripped in the destructive spiral of upward mobity and thus lose our vocation.” ~ page 69
Here’s two things that can help us live out this vocation:
1. Live love where you are, in the dailiness, quietly, knowing God sees you.
Fill your days with small acts of love.
Give a hug, show interest in someone by asking a question, let the kids leave the mess out to play one more day. Help someone or share time for conversation. There is limitless opportunity for these small gestures of love!
Notice how these gestures don’t create comparison or competition?
By living this way, we will find the blessing of meaningful work and inner peace. We can let go of striving and competition, and the worry about image and roles and productivity.
2. Create space in your life to be with Jesus.
Henri Nouwen continued to write: “Precisely because the downward mobility of the way of the cross cannot rely on our spontaneous responses, we are faced with the question, ‘How do we conform our minds and hearts to the mind and heart of the self-emptying Christ?’ … The discipline of Christian discipline is not to master anything, but rather be mastered by the Spirit. True Christian discipline is the human effort to create the space in which the Spirit of Christ can transform us in to his lineage” (pages 69-70).
Here are few ways I’ve tried to create space for the Spirit to work in my life. I’ve read the Bible slowly, with space to pray and think (it’s amazing how the Spirit brings to mind verses when we need them!). With journaling, I’ve found that putting my thoughts on paper helps me see my heart more clearly in Jesus’ presence (the main part of this post comes from my journal!). And when there’s a Christian song that resonates with me, I listen to it on repeat.
What have you tried?
We can choose our thoughts – to reject comparison – and choose loving actions. But to be freed to live a life of love like Jesus, to become like him, we must choose to create space for the Spirit to be at work within us.
Here’s two other delightful results from this all. We become more free to love the person we once compared ourselves with. And, don’t you feel some relief? 😅 We don’t have to pressure ourselves to be the greatest in worldly terms!
“I am among you as the one who serves.” Luke 22:27
“The greatest among you shall be your servant.” Matthew 23:11
Who do you tend to compare yourself with? How are you tempted to be successful or be seen by people?
How will you create space to spend time with Jesus and allow the Spirit to work in you, transforming you into Christ-likeness?
Kathryn Featherstone is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach and a board-certified Christian Life Coach, who helps people live and love well out of their strengths and their relationship with Christ. She’d like to encourage you in your journey! Write her a note or see her Coaching page.