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Tarnish of the Soul: Comparing Yourself to Others

July 26, 2013

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Part One in a series of four. 

I have never been a very athletic person.

Sports weren’t part of my mom’s life, so she enrolled me in ballet. I hated it. She finally gave up after a few seasons of stuffing my unwilling and chubby five-year-old self into tights and leotards.

For whatever reason, however, I decided to try out for the swim team my sophomore year of high school.

I had never swam competitively. I’d never swam anything beyond the neighbor’s backyard pool.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I joined the team practices and began swimming twice a day, five days a week. Mornings at oh-dark-thirty in the October chill, and every afternoon, after school. I thought I’d die at first, lap after lap, up and back, 25 yards, 50 yards, 100…as I tell my kids today, practice, practice, practice. I grew stronger, leaner, faster.

The team began competing in meets every Friday. We’d travel to other schools in the district. I swam the 50 free, IMs, and I did well.

But I wasn’t the best. I had only been swimming competitively a few months. There were girls on my team who had been swimming competitively since they were in diapers. They were extraordinary – their strokes were elegant and efficient, and they were fast.

I medaled in a few events. I was proud of my accomplishments. One glorious California day in November, when it was still 80 degrees outside,  my IM team took 2nd place in the district finals.

But I wasn’t the best.

So I quit the team after the season was over.

If I can’t win, I won’t play.

I wasn’t content with being my personal best. With being in better physical condition than I’d ever been before in my life (and if we’re being really honest, than I’d ever be again.)

Second place wasn’t good enough for me. I compared myself to those other girls, and I knew I’d never measure up. So I quit. 

Looking back, I think of all that I missed out by not remaining on the team. Two more years of the camaraderie. Two more years of being my physical best. Two more years of excelling in something I never expected to excel, and two more years rooting for others who had worked for their trophies far longer than I.

I look back with regret.

When we compare ourselves to others, we use a yard-stick of unreasonable proportions.

To compare, I must be separate. To compare, I will always be apart. Comparison prevents connection, and it will always, always lead to discontent. Discontent always leads to bitterness.

Tarnished and sour, I will never measure up. I cannot always win. I cannot always be the best.

We were not meant to compare, we were meant to complement. Separately, alone, we are but a shadow. Together, we glow. Friendship, connection, support, faith, hope, love…none are born of envy. All are born of content.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.

Psalm 34

If you seek a soul that gleams, radiantly reflecting inner peace, contentment and His glory, look only at His face. Ask Him:

Did I do MY best?

That is enough.

Go and be shiny today. Come back next week for the second tarnisher of souls: discontent.

May grace and peace be yours in abundance,

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The conversation continues over on Facebook. Follow my author page for more insights and resources about living a shiny, abundant and beautiful life. 

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 26, 2013 7:02 pm

    Highly recommend this book, “Compared to Her,” by my friend Sophie DeWitt … masterfully addresses the issue of comparison and how to think biblically in light of such a daily and ongoing struggle: https://reflectiontherapy.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/compared-to-her-an-interview-with-author-sophie-de-witt/

  2. July 28, 2013 3:11 pm

    What you have shared here makes me eager to read the rest of this series. The writer of Hebrews tells us in chapter 12 to throw off everything that hinders us in order to run the race marked off for us, but he doesn’t give us a list! I think your series will offer clear cut, rock solid suggestions! This topic was a great choice and your personal example makes it even more clear how comparing ourselves to others can keep us from the benefits of participating in the race! Even though I am switching analogies here, I have to say you have hit a home run!

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  1. Tarnish of the Soul: All That Glitters | Adelle Gabrielson

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