Comparison was making me feel a little sorry for myself. The church I serve as pastor had a Sunday that was particularly low in attendance. For a pastor it’s difficult not to take dips in attendance personally. Is my message off target? Are people being attracted by the church down the street that’s buying members with entertainment and prizes? Have my prayers faltered? Would people rather listen to someone else? Isn’t our church worth getting out of bed on a Sunday morning?
At the same time, I noticed that some friends of mine from seminary days were celebrating unprecedented success in their ministries. It was tough. It’s times like these that you begin to question yourself. You wonder if you’re doing something wrong. You question your skills and decisions.
It’s been said that comparison is the thief of joy. That’s why it’s better not to compare.
I was taught that lesson when we had another pastor visit our congregation a week later. Following the services he couldn’t stop saying how blessed we are as a church. He raved about our facilities. He talked about how welcome he felt. He couldn’t believe how good our music is. He made it clear that he’s going to be taking ideas from our church back to his.
I was put in my place. This situation taught me three lessons about comparison:
- Only compare yourself to yourself. It’s easier said than done, but never compare yourself to other people. The only comparison worth anything is comparing yourself to where you were yesterday. If you are further toward your goals than you were yesterday you are making worthy progress. Keep up the good work.
- Keep your eyes on the prize. Instead of comparison to other people, keep your eyes on the goals you have set for yourself. Write them down. There’s something about pen or pencil to paper that engages the part of your brain that motivates. Then put the goal in a prominent place where you can see it daily. It has a much better chance of coming to fruition if you take these steps.
- View your situation from a different perspective. I had the opportunity to do that as I saw our church through the eyes of a visiting pastor. I recognized the good things, the blessings, and the positive aspects of our congregation. I realized that occasional attendance dips may just be a blip on the screen. They don’t tell the whole story or reveal the big picture.
Don’t let comparison steal your joy. Stop looking around and instead look within. You’ve grown since yesterday. When you recognize how far you’ve come you’ll see that you are closer to where you want to be.
How do you keep comparison from stealing your joy?