Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Measuring Up

You know, there’s a bad word out there that is killing all of us. It’s a word that chokes us, deflates us, gives us false hope, and puts an inordinate amount of stress on us. The word I am talking about isn’t a curse word – but it definitely can be (and often is) a curse.


At first glance, it seems rather harmless. In fact, the term alone may invoke thoughts of weighing the quality of our options when faced with making decisions as consumers – fruit, liquid detergents, saturated fat content in bags of corn chips. No big deal.

But, that’s not the comparison I am talking about here. I’m talking about what happens when we apply this word to our lives. Humor me, as I give you an example.

Recently, I was listening to a guy talk about a conversation he had with his nephew. His nephew is in his mid-20’s, and is apparently doing pretty well for himself as a partner in a successful real estate business. During the phone conversation, he began to tell his uncle about his salary, his new luxury car, and the new house he has.

After he was finished listing all of the material possessions he now owned, he asked his uncle this question: “So, how do you think I’m doing?”

“What do you mean?” the uncle replied.

“Well, I’m only 27. I don’t know of any other people my age making this much money, or who drive a car like mine. So, how am I doing?”

In a nutshell, the nephew was looking for validation. But, the wise uncle didn’t bite.

“Well, most people your age are starting a family, and they make that their first priority. I guess the better question is ‘Are you happy with what you’re doing? Are you enjoying life?’”

You see, this young man is caught up in a game he’ll never win. It’s the trap of comparison. He’s gauging his success completely by how he measures up against those his age. But, let me ask you this: Who’s “doing better?” The guy who is single and making a six-figure income? Or, the couple who are barely making ends meet, who just found out they are expecting a baby after trying for three years to get pregnant?

It’s a trick question, because the answer could be BOTH. And, you know what? You likely found yourself comparing the two scenarios in your mind and came up with what you believe is the right answer. It’s because we analyze those two situations and see how they compare with our own values and stages of life. It’s tough to escape.

I stumbled on one of the greatest verses in scripture recently. It’s not one you really hear too often, but its words are absolutely on the money.

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)

More often than not, we get ourselves in trouble when we take our eyes off of those things God has called us to do, and begin to focus more on what other people are doing. The thing is, the people we’re looking at have probably done the same thing we’re doing – they’ve taken their eye off the ball, and are trying to be something (or someone) they’re not. It’s a vicious cycle.

You and I have got to do a better job of doing those things we’ve been called to do. And, we’ve got to do a better job of being us – not someone else.

It’s been said that contentment is “wanting what I already have.” That’s some good stuff. How often do we find ourselves truly wanting what we already have? Rarely. And, it’s a shame. Because there are millions of others who would see our lives and wish they had what we have.

This new year – 2008 – let’s resolve to be who God made us. Nothing more, nothing less.

Be genuine. Be authentic. Let the Jones’s be the Jones’s.

Because, like Paul told us in that verse in Galatians – we will never be satisfied with anything else.

Set your own goals. For yourself. For your family. For your job or company.

Dare to NOT compare.

It’s the only way you’ll ever truly measure up.

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