The Comparison Game: Cutting Ourselves Short

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I have a few secrets. One of them (that I don’t even think my family knows) is that I admire tap dancers. Like I seriously do. As a six-year-old, I watched Michael Flatley‘s Lord of the Dance, and my jaw dropped as I fell in love with the art. Even watching the tap dancing in Singing in the Rain cultivates a desire for that ability. This admiration and jealousy extends to a great deal of other sports as well. A few years after being introduced to Lord of the Dance, I saw ski jumping in the winter Olympics. I was inspired. If I watch any sort of gymnastics or tumbling, I’m taken…And I want that skill!

While aspiring to be a pro tap dancer or Olympic ski jumper are so “out there” that they’re humorous, some of my other jealousies aren’t as funny. My sister has skill at dressing nice and she can look super on-point. Me? I have no idea. Maybe that’s why I wear an over-sized I-don’t-quite-know-what-it’s-called shirt-like thing that I found on the side of the road and decided to add to my wardrobe.

Related imageI’m also an action person. I get an idea in my head and I run out and start it right here right now. That has it’s benefits, but can really backfire when I’ve got three different baking projects going on in the same kitchen. (Did I mention that I get bored with said projects far too quickly and that I don’t normally even start the clean up process until my baked goods are in the oven?). Another sister, on the other hand, can keep house like a perfect, organized, wise woman should be able to…

I doubt that anyone could honestly say he or she doesn’t occasionally covet another person’s talents, skills, jobs, or opportunities. However, something Andy Stanley said in his sermon series titled Comparison Trap intrigued me. He mentioned that, while there are always things we envy in others, there is never a time when we would completely trade who we are for everything the other person is.

When I thought about that, I found it to be true. I love Eliza’s sense of style and Tessa’s sense of organization, but I wouldn’t trade my sense of adventure and positive passion for either of these. There is too much about me that I would have to give up in order to gain someone else’s positive traits.

18402114_1697171093629904_5370602383642028268_o.jpgAnd, when I consider trading all I am to gain all that someone else is, I pause and discover that there are a lot of things God has gifted me with that I wouldn’t like to trade–and that the other person isn’t quite as perfect as I may have thought in the first place… When we envy someone else’s talents and opportunities, we do ourselves an injustice and only consider part of that person.

What I’ve learned from Andy Stanley’s sermon series then, is that other people have downfalls and struggles too. God may have gifted others with talents and opportunities, but sin has reached us all. There is little point to envying another person’s life simply because of an obvious positive trait.

Secondly, I’ve learned that I’m not so bad off after all. I have failings, shortcomings, things that I’m ashamed and embarrassed of. But, in the end, I’m grateful for who God has made me. I’m thankful for the personality he’s given me and I would never trade everything I am for everything someone else is…because God knew what he was doing when he carefully crafted me.ben-white-170529.jpg

There are always people who are going to be better at certain things than you are, but you have talents and gifts that make you better in some areas than other people. To jealously covet other’s talents is to unfairly ignore the gifts and qualities that the Holy Creator of the universe specifically picked out for you.

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Am I Proud of or Ashamed of Who I am?

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I wrote a post on surrounding yourself with people who will encourage you, be a good influence on you, and challenge you. For me, as a Christ follower, that means finding close friends who are serious about their faith and are pursuing a relationship with God hard core. But then the question plagues me: how can I tell if someone is sincere in his/her faith?

As I wrestled with this thought, I had to ask myself what I am doing to show my passion for Christ? This can be a painful question. This post is written as much for myself as it is for you

To get a practical application of how I could see Christ in others or how I could demonstrate my faith myself, I considered people around me who I admire to see how they show their passion for Christ. As much as we might prefer a glorious, mythical answer, the truth is, in those who I admire, I see Christ lived out in the little things.

1 Thessalonians 4:11 commands: “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you.” 1 Timothy 2:2-3 repeats the idea, “…that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior…”

Big glorious things for Christ matter, but it is the simple, daily, living-life things that we are commanded to submit to Christ if we really want to live out our faith.

Free stock photo of man, person, dirty, constructionWork

Especially over the summer, the idea of using everyday work to glorify God spoke to me. 40+ Hours: What do We Communicate at Work?40+ Hours: What do We Communicate at Work? is a heart-felt post I wrote explaining how our time at work is a chance we have to serve others and find purpose. Work is not simply a wretched torture we must suffer through to supply our needs; instead it is an opportunity to engage with the people and tasks around us–to use the gifts and talents God has provided to serve others.

People will see Christ in me when I do my work passionately, go above and beyond expectations, and work as if it really matters. For my job as a tour guide at Cornerstone University, this means not just leading tours and saying what I have to say, but adding sincere energy. It means memorizing the names of the students on my tours. It means asking what they would like to know about, caring about their needs. It means arriving early to work and being willing to stay late sometimes. It means smiling while I work and going out of my way to find answers to questions. Is that the attitude I have when I head to work?

I want to be a Christian who has a great reputation at work because I am going to work looking to serve others, and not just looking out for myself.

Time management

Blue sand falls in an hourglass on a rocky beachThe way we prioritize also speaks volumes to what we are living for. Am I making time for one-on-one time with God daily (severely important!!!)? Am I making time to spend with others? Am I being responsible with the tasks I have to accomplish?

Everyone needs to waste time sometimes, but when I am tempted to binge watch Rhett and Link, I have to question: is that really the best way to use the limited time I have on earth? When I stay up late and am grumpy at work the next day, it’s not just myself who is affected. Am I viewing my time on earth as a temporary loan, or am I just looking to use it for myself and my personal pleasures? Am I wishing time away or am I looking to use the most of each moment I’ve been gifted with life?

I want to be a Christian whose time management points to a purpose above my own.

Respect for Others

A Christ-follower should believe that each individual possesses at least some aspect of who God is. I believe those who call themselves Christians should not gossip, should not tear others down, and should, in fact, do quite the opposite. The Christians who I admire do a great job of seeing the positives in others and serving others. As Christians, we can speak so much of God’s love by serving those around us. Sometimes this means opening doors for others. Sometimes it means befriending that lonely kid in your hall. Sometimes it means helping a classmate with homework. Or writing an encouraging note to someone. It can mean not dissing a professor, not speaking poorly of that one kid in class, not watching that film that the others are into. It can be small, but respect shows.

I want to be a Christian who radiates respect.

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How a person spends his/her money will show exactly what that person prioritizes. Again, it is absolutely okay to spend some money on yourself from time to time just for fun. But am I tithing? Am I giving some of it to the expansion of Christ’s kingdom? (Compassion International is a great organization to donate to, you can sponsor a child and see how much that one sponsorship can change the world for a child on the other side of the world!)

I know I’m speaking mostly to college students here. I know that we have very minimal amounts of money to spend. So maybe the question isn’t so much about how you could spend your money differently, but how about considering how much energy you waste worrying about your money? I want to learn to trust God so that, when I’m doing as much as I can, I can lay aside the worry and not let money stress me out.

I want to be a Christian who has enough confidence in my great God that when money is tight (i.e. always), I will never stop giving and will trust God to be in control.

Attitude

I hope that if you’ve been following my blog even halfheartedly that you’ve been slapped in the face with my passion for having a joyful attitude. Attitude is such a choice and it has the potential to be such a huge witness! I believe in a God who grants us hope, peace, trust, and JOY! As I Christ-follower, it is my sincere hope to represent some of God’s great attributes through having a joyful attitude.

Going out on the mission field, draining your savings to support a Christian organization, adopting a whole family of kids from the other side of the world: these are things that glorify God. But walking into work with a smile, writing an encouraging note to your roommate, working hard on your homework: these glorify God just as much.

The majority of our time and energy on earth is honestly spent just trying to stay alive; eating, sleeping, and breathing. It’s exhausting. But God put us on earth to live. And these things are what living takes. It is even these things that glorify God.

The way we do the simplest aspects of everyday living is what truly communicates to the world about our passion for Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:31: “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Why Do We Act the Way We Do?: Taking Circumstances into Consideration

IMG_3128 (1) - Edited.jpgI have a 10-year-old brother. He’s a perfect definition of a handful; he’s high energy, low attention, not especially well-coordinated, but a lover of dangerous adventure, testing authority, and always squirming. Coming home for spring break, I got to see the little fellow again.  I was also re-introduced to a struggle with patience.

Naturally sometimes my youngest sister and my brother squabble. My little sister will lose her patience and yell at my brother. “He’s not going to listen to you or respect you if you yell at him,” I’m always quick to advise, assuming my sister must just not be grown-up enough to recognize that such little things are not worth getting worked up over. It’s just part of being a kid, an instinct you have to grow out of. It’s just part of who my sister is right now.

However, as I was on break, I’m ashamed to admit I found myself yelling at my little brother as well. “Gosh, this cold really makes me irritable,” I was thinking just the other morning. Having a sore throat and a dripping nose has a surprising effect on one’s patience.

This type of thinking is a great example of the Fundamental Attribution Error. The Fundamental Attribution Error occurs when you judge a person’s character for their actions, instead of putting the emphasis on their situation.  For example, when another student gets a bad grade, you are likely to think they are a little less smart or capable as a person. However, if you were to get the same bad grade, you’d be likely to attribute it to your situation–the tough teacher, the confusing test, the lack of sleep you had.

In American culture, we are taught from childhood that we are masters of our own fate and can control our destinies (Shiraev & Levy, 2013, p. 69). Hence, when we tend to judge actions as if it was the person’s choice and will to act that way. We see the homeless as being homeless because they are lazy, the oppressed as oppressed because they are weak, and those struggling as struggling because they are just that kind of person. Not only do we assume that they are the source of their situations, we assume that they probably deserve it (Shiraev & Levy, 2013, p. 70).

This attribution is so easy to commit we do it all the time without realizing it. But this error is an error. Thinking this way–ignoring the effect a situation has on another’s actions–leads directly to judgmentalism that really isn’t fair. My sister wasn’t yelling at my brother because it is just in her nature to yell. She was IMG_2652 (1) - Edited.jpgyelling at him because she was at the point where she didn’t know what else to do. Similarly, I can’t put all the blame for yelling at my brother on having a cold. If something as minor as having a cold causes me to act in anger towards my 10 year old brother, I need to work on my patience!

Can you think of situations where you have fallen prey to the Fundamental Attribution error? What is something you judge the character of others for but blame your situation for when you commit the same action? What are you going to do to try to think differently?