Comparing ourselves with others is a natural thing to do though I’m not sure it is something God wants us to do. It is made more pervasive in our society, and especially in Western society, by the constant media messages we all get saying what the “perfect” woman or the “perfect” man is supposed to be like or look like. Images of a size 2 woman in a bikini or a man with well-defined muscles represent society’s ideal.
Media messages about what men and women are “supposed” to be interested in and what happens when they’re not have also contributed to the pervasive nature of comparison. One only has to look at such controversies as Gamer Gate or the under participation of women in STEM careers to know that women who are gamers or who are interested and have the potential to have a science, technology, or math career are not considered to be ideal women in our society.
There are also media messages about the stages of life we’re all supposed to follow, and if we deviate from those messages, we are not considered to be as good as the people who follow them. The specific stage of life I want to highlight here is that of buying a home. At a certain point in our lives, we are supposed to have gained enough wealth or enough credit-worthiness to own a home, and if, for whatever reason, we don’t take that step, we are not considered to be as good as the people who do own homes.
A specific example from my own community has saddened me in recent weeks. We live a few miles from a large city in the United States. This area is separated into different cities, towns, and communities as I know most areas are in this country. One of these smaller cities is having a school rezoning issue at the moment, and the people in this school district are upset about all of the apartment residents they have to accommodate. I’ve read several articles about the issue, and a lot of it has to do with economics and having enough money to support programs at the different schools. But, the one thing that has especially saddened me is the comments on the articles. Many of them tell the residents of these apartments that they should go back to the large city and that they’re not good enough to live in the smaller city. Several comments used derogatory names that were racial and poverty related. It was like these people were trying to tell these apartment residents their children didn’t deserve to have a good education. I cried when I read those comments because I knew that some of the people making them might also claim to be Christians, and I also knew they had fallen into the comparison trap of thinking they were better than other people just because they owned a home and lived in this smaller city.
I believe these thoughts and attitudes make Jesus sad because comparing ourselves to others has also crept into the church, I’m sorry to say. Before I go any further, I want to make it clear I do believe that God made men and women differently, and that those differences should be celebrated not condemned. That being said, I believe there is a lot of leeway in how God made men and women and just because a man doesn’t like to play football or a woman doesn’t like having their nails done or going shopping doesn’t mean they are any less of a man or woman who does like these things. Just because a man or a woman lives in an apartment instead of owning a home doesn’t mean they are any less of a man or woman who does own a home. Just because a man or a woman serves in the background of a church instead of at the front of a church doesn’t mean they are any less of a man or woman who does serve at the front of a church. We need to make sure everyone in our churches knows they are valued and treated as such because we are ALL sons and daughters of God, and Jesus loves ALL of us. If we don’t do this in our churches, what reason will this broken world have to listen to what we have to say?
In other words, we need to remember 1 Corinthians 13:13. “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
God’s blessings on all of you today!