Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Perils of Comparing

We compare many things. Is this apple better than that apple? Should I buy this car or that car? How well is this team playing compared to that team?

We compare so many things, so often, that I believe we step into a trap: comparing ourselves to others. Bigger/smaller, shorter/taller, smarter/dumber. That's just the start. I am appalled when I think of how often I compare myself to others. Often what I'm doing is trying to assure myself that I am "OK" I see a very accomplished bodybuilder (one of ten thousand people I have seen that month) and I think: Well, his muscles are huge but my muscles are OK. I may try to think of many guys with smaller muscles. I often wind up thinking: I had better do something or my muscles won't be OK anymore. Sure, muscles are superficial, so are physical beauty, wealth, clothes, houses, cars and a plethora of other things.

Sadly, the comparing doesn't stop with superficial things. Am I more devout than him? Is my suffering greater than hers? Have I served others as well as he did?

One night I trudged across the corporate parking lot feeling a bit sorry for myself. Then I saw I tiny, crippled man come out of a nearby building. He was a visiting technician for some machinery we owned. He less than four feet tall and very handicapped by his disproportionate physique. He painfully made his way across the parking lot. Even stepping over a curbstone was difficult for him. My first selfish thought was simply this: I am glad I don't have those problems. And of course, I am glad that my growth was not stunted and that my limbs have generally worked quite well. But why did I need to compare? Can't I be glad for what I have without seeing what others lack. Conversely, can't I be content with what I have when I see that others may have more?

As each year passes, I realize more fully how short our lives are on this earth. Even if we live a hundred years, every moment is precious. It is a chance to do good, not evil. We can use the time or waste it. Every decision, every action, every thought can make this a better world or a worse one. It can make us a better person or a worse one. And although our lives are short, there is eternal significance to each and every thing we do. I pray that God will deliver me from comparisons that serve no purpose other than to puff up my pride or to lead me to covet.
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