It’s been noted that we can compare ourselves to others in at least three different ways.
- Upward comparison – with people we perceive are better than us. This leads to envy.
- Lateral comparison – with people we perceive are at our same level. This leads to competition.
- Downward comparison – with people we perceive who are worse off than us. This leads to arrogance.
We’d all love to say we’re above the comparison trap, but I’ll be the first to admit how easy I can get sucked into this. Even in areas that shouldn’t matter.
Michelle and I have been working out at Orange Theory together now that all our kids are in school during the day. This week we had what they call a “benchmark row,” which means you time yourself doing 2000 meters on the rowing machine. Afterward, you input your time in their computer so it saves it to your profile.
I came in second in our group of rowers to a new guy I’d never seen in any of our classes before. He looked like a pro athlete in some type of sport and definitely worked out like it. I didn’t think any more of our rowing times till at the end of the class when the coach said that the new guy had placed first for the day (all classes) in his age group. No surprise there.
Then she said I placed second in my age group for the day. This did in fact surprise me.
When we got in the car later, I told Michelle I can’t believe I had to lose to that guy, wondering why he picked a benchmark day to stop by. To which my wife laughed and said “I’m pretty sure he’s not in your age group.” This took me a second to process, as I don’t think of myself in the already-past-prime category quite yet. She followed it up by saying I should be more concerned with whatever older guy beat me.
This got me Googling the age ranges they use at Orange Theory and created a desire to find this guy’s details so I can know exactly who beat me. And in this one example, I’ve traveled through all three areas of comparison. And that was just Wednesday morning.
Which one of the three is most tempting for you? Notice they each bring with them an unhealthy result. I’d suggest that envy, competition, and arrogance are not great motivators for life. They serve as fast food emotions that are readily available and taste great (until of course, you have to digest them).
Instead, let’s enjoy a different kind of meal… one with fruit in it.
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23a). Thankfully, our need for comparison quickly dwindles when we submit to what the Spirit wants to do in our lives.
I’ll be praying for more joy (and maybe a bit of peace) at my next benchmark.
It will be easier if new guy isn’t there again.Envy, competition, and arrogance are not great motivators for life. They serve as fast food emotions that are readily available and taste great (until of course, you have to digest them). Click To Tweet