In my single days, my roommates and I kept an article from John Piper on our refrigerator as a daily reminder to fight the sin of comparison. I come back to it often as I regularly deal with my own tendency to compare.
Last summer, as the women of our church studied John together, I was reminded again just how ugly comparison can be. The disciples were no stranger to comparison, in fact, Jesus addresses this snare directly in John's gospel. As Peter has just been restored to fellowship with Christ, he is immediately pulled into the comparison game as he looks at his fellow disciple, John. Piper says this about Peter's question to Jesus.
That's the way we sinners are wired. Compare. Compare. Compare. We crave to know how we stack up in comparison to others. There is some kind of high if we can just find someone less effective than we are. Ouch. To this day, I recall the little note posted by my Resident Assistant in Elliot Hall my senior year at Wheaton: “To love is to stop comparing.” What is that to you, Piper? Follow me.
The Comparison Trap
Comparison is often a besetting issue for us as women. We see a woman dressed differently than us, and we mentally stand next to her and boast in our attractiveness or wallow in how much better she looks. We see another mother with her children and compare our parenting skills . . . or lack of skills. We see a wife love her husband well and measure our relationship next to hers. We see a coworker excel at a particular task and wonder why we can't work with the same speed and precision. Or to hit it home for me, I read another writer and feel stings of comparison as her perfectly crafted sentences make mine look like the work of an amateur.
Different Roles in the Kingdom
But I was struck by something else as I studied this last part of John, something that put my own struggles with comparison in perspective. Peter and John both served very necessary, yet unique purposes in the establishment of the church. John lived a long life and wrote a number of New Testament books. Peter was at the forefront of the spread of the church (through much persecution) and according to tradition, was crucified upside down. Both lives looked very different. But both were needed in God's kingdom.
There is much to celebrate regarding the gifts of the women around us.
The same is true for us as writers, women, mothers, wives, employees, and church members. As a writer, I may say something in such a way that a specific woman has ears to hear. However, a different woman may actually need the voice of another friend of mine who writes in a different style. Both voices are necessary, both styles get the point across, but everyone has different ears to hear in different situations. We are all necessary.
A Blessing, Not a Threat
In our ever connected world, it can be easy to compare our own abilities and accomplishments with the woman next to us (or to put it more clearly, on the Internet page next to us). But we must not do that, friends. Like Peter and John, we have been given unique abilities, voices, and styles to minister to women who need to see that God's Word is true and valuable in their lives. The woman who writes with more wit or careful turning of a phrase than me is not a threat to my gifting, but a blessing. She helps others see God when my words fall short. That is a gift! She is a service to the church in the same way I am called to be. I can lean on her and learn from her, but I should never resent her. The same is true for all of our gifts and abilities.
There is much to celebrate regarding the gifts of the women around us. As Christian women who long to see God glorified in our lives, let us take the words of our Christ to heart when we feel the sting of jealousy rise up in our hearts over the giftings of another: "What is that to you [sister]? You follow me."
Do you need to repent of comparison and encourage a sister today?