When That “Someone Else” Is You

The definition of “better” includes being more pleasing, acceptable, or of greater quality, usefulness, or suitability than something else.  While it’s a good thing to be acceptable, useful and suitable – the trouble comes in trying to be better than something else.  And, let’s face it, we’re typically trying to be better than someone else.

It’s a great concept in the world of business and sports, but when we attempt to surpass someone/something else with regard to pursuing our purpose in life, we wind up making judgment calls about that person.  And what happens when that someone else is ourselves?  Is there something wrong with trying to be better than ourselves?  My debatable answer is… yes, there is a problem.

Do you realize that God does not call us to be a “better” person? I’ve searched scripture (and the internet) and can’t find it anywhere.  However, there are plenty of times when he calls us to be a different person… a new person.  (2 Corinthians 5:17 and Ephesians 4:22-24 are just two.)

I like how CS Lewis put it:

“God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature. Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural horse at its own game…”

When we try be more pleasing, acceptable, or of greater quality, usefulness, or suitability than what we were in the past, we are taking on a responsibility that God has not given us: judging ourselves (both in the past and now).  In 1 Corinthians 4 the Apostle Paul denounces this.

Looking back on who I was ten years ago, I don’t know if I can claim to be a better person now, but I can confidently state I am a different person. Why should I attempt to prove myself against a long-irrelevant standard or compete against/surpass a past version of myself?  I am not who I was – I have acquired new ways of thinking and doing things.  My direction has changed – the activities I am involved in are not the same. My current decisions are made for what I am pursuing now, not then.

Each of us has a unique purpose and an inimitable way to pursue it.  This quest is not a struggle to transcend ourselves, but an invitation to build upon what God has given us to do – where we are and as who we are now without comparative references.

self compete

Competition or Just a Kick in the Pants

GROWTH

“The fact is, that to do anything in the world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in and scramble through as well as we can.”
(Robert Cushing)

EXCELLENCE

  • When Person A was the only game in town they encouraged Person B to pursue their heart’s desire, knowing full well it was similar to their own.  When Person B’s version of the business started doing well, Person A cut off all contact.  That was even though A’s business was not diminished but was even promoted by B.  Person A felt distinctly threatened.
  • There is a writer who limits herself to writing small articles now and then.  The reason?  Too much competition.  She says when she walks into a library and sees how many books have been published it discourages her that she’ll probably never stand out.
  • K. doesn’t understand why their career never took off while watching enviously as other in the same field flourish.  K. has much more talent than others I know in their line of work, but I’ve never seen them try to move forward.  They keep waiting for people to come to them, and keeps growing in resentment as others hard work pays off.

I found myself similar circumstances recently.  One of my friends was talking about preparing a book for publication – something I’ve been talking about for a couple of years.  She asked for some direction and advice. As she talked excitedly about it I realized that I had been kind of slow – okay, okay, lazy – in my efforts in that area. I thought I had so far to go, but realized that I really was almost there.  As I spoke to her I was surprised at how much I actually did know about it and how close I was to being ready to take the next step. It would have been easy for me to feel threatened by her coming close into my territory.  I could have been discouraged that she was moving at a faster pace and could easily surpass me.  I could become resentful  that she is probably nearer our mutual goal than I am.  I could see her as competition that threatens my existence.

Instead I decided that I to take this as reinforcement and inspiration – a kick in the pants, if you will.  I invited her to the Northwest Christian Writer’s Association meetings and Writer’s Renewal.  I gave her ideas of what to do next and suggestions for her to research.  I want to encourage her as much as  possible to pursue her purpose and to equip her for it.  I also want to see it as healthy competition – not to be better than her, but to keep myself in top form as I pursue my purpose.  To make sure that I am doing and giving my best towards my own goals, but with the realization that I am not the only game in town but am willing to help others succeed – even to a higher level then me.  I want her to be successful.  I want me to be successful.  It can be mutual.  In fact it must be mutual.

PURPOSE

if you are true