Getting away from Comparisons
Alan Loy McGinnis


There is an important factor that causes us to be obsessed with our limitations:  the tendency to compare ourselves with others.  There is probably no other habit that chips away at our self-confidence so effectively as the habit of scanning the people around us to see how we compare.  It is as if we have a radar dish on our foreheads, constantly searching to see if someone else is quicker, tanner, or brighter.  And when we find that at times someone is, we are devastated.

The folly of basing our self-estimate on comparisons is that it puts us on a roller-coaster.  Perhaps we are feeling fairly good about our appearance one day, and we find ourselves in the company of someone with stunningly good looks.  Suddenly we feel ugly and want to disappear.  Or perhaps we know we have above-average intelligence, but we happen to be at lunch with people who are even smarter.  Then every word that comes out of our mouths sounds like intellectual sludge.

Some of us grew up with older brothers and sisters who we desperately wanted to emulate, but of course we were doomed from the start.  For no matter how hard we tried to catch up, we found ourselves smaller, clumsier, and dumber than they were.  And when they ridiculed us--as most older siblings do--we learned to criticize ourselves.  In many cases this became a life-long habit.

But God did not make us to be like our siblings or anyone else.  We are absolutely unique.  We are the product of 23 chromosomes from our mothers and 23 chromosomes from our fathers, and geneticists say that the odds of our parents having another child like us are one in 10 to the two-billionth power.  The combination of attributes that constitutes us will never be duplicated.  If this is true, and if it is true that we are created by God--an original by a master artist--it makes the exploration and development of that uniqueness an item of the highest priority.

Our core value is not diminished when we happen to be with people who are better musicians or more famous or wealthier.  Nor is it heightened when we find ourselves with people who are less accomplished.  The Bible teaches us that we have worth quite apart from the existence of any other person.  We have worth because we are God's unique creation.

The Hasidic rabbi, Zuscha, was asked on his deathbed what he thought the kingdom of God would be like.  He replied, "I don't know.  But one thing I do know.  When I get there I am not going to be asked, 'Why weren't you Moses?  Why weren't you David?'  I am only going to be asked, 'Why weren't you Zuscha?  Why weren't you fully you?'"

Thousands of years ago, the Greek philosopher Aristotle suggested that each human being is bred with a unique set of potentials that yearn to be fulfilled as surely as the acorn yearns to become the oak within it.  Sidney Poitier's parents probably never heard of Aristotle's notion, but they knew its truth in their bones and they taught their children a self-reliance that refused to be defeated because they had some limitations.

"I was a product of a colonial system," says Poitier, "that was very damaging to the psyche of non-white people.  The darker you were, the less opportunities were presented to you. . . . My parents were terribly, terribly poor, and after a while the psychology of poverty begins to mess with your head.  As a result, I cultivated a fierce pride in myself, something that was hammered into me by my parents Evelyn and Reggie--mostly by Evelyn.  She never apologized for the fact that she had to make my pants out of flour sacks.  I used to have 'Imperial Flour' written across my rear.  She always used to say, 'If it's clean, that's the important thing.'  So from that woman--and probably for that woman--I always wanted to be extraordinary."

Alan Loy McGinnis (1933-2005) was a best-selling author, family therapist, business consultant, and popular speaker.  After a twenty-year career as a minister, he became a counselor and co-founded the Valley Counseling Center in Glendale, California.  In the 1970's he began researching friendship and authored The Friendship Factor.  He authored more than fifty articles and several more books.


Don't undermine your worth by comparing yourself with others.
It is because we are different that each of us is special.

Brian Dyson


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