When I was younger, back in 4th grade, I used to run cross country. Now based off of my reputation nowadays, some of you may believe that it was voluntarily and that I was happy about it. Only half of that is true. My best friend at the time was huge into running, and she was really good and loved it. She was the type of girl that everyone loved because she was athletic, fun, she worked hard, and was herself, and I wanted to be all of those things. So she persuaded me to join cross country and I thought that through doing it, I would become more like her. In the spring, the cross country season had started and I was ok with running. Didn't love it, didn’t hate it, but what I really did start to hate was the fact that my friend would always beat me. We ran approximately 2.5 miles and she would always get ahead of me by about 15-30 seconds, so everyday during the run I would start to cry. I would cry that I wasn’t fast enough and that I wanted to be faster but my legs hurt and I felt like I was never going to win. I started to hold on to some bitterness towards her because I was jealous of her success and that began to build a wall in between us. Once, I had praised her for her success and was genuinely happy for her, but throughout the seasons of cross country in 4th, 5th and 6th grade I began to hold them against her in a way. I wasn’t happy for her anymore, instead I would look at her almost as an enemy because she had everything I wanted and was better at it. This not only hurt me but also our relationship.
Often, when we see other people and their success and realize we want it for ourselves, it can create an obstacle between you and that person. It hurts the chance that you may be able to become good friends with them in the future. Comparing yourself to others also can cause you to create doubt in yourself until that comparison comes true, to where they are better at whatever it is because you have chosen to waste time focusing on why you aren’t where they are yet. Maybe you are someone that compares yourself to others based on their appearance, or maybe if it’s not about looks, maybe you compare yourself to others because they are smarter than you or at least you may think they are. Maybe you compare yourself to the success of your siblings, or the money so and so has. Maybe you compare yourself to who has more happiness or joy than you. And often you may even begin to focus so much on how to get what they have through outward things, instead of evaluating yourself and learning how you can grow yourself in the relationship you have with God and His goals for your life. God specifically talks about this in Galatians 6:4, where He says, “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.” So let’s tackle the first part of this verse first, and to remind you it says, “Each one should test their own actions…” now you may be thinking to yourself, what does this mean? Or maybe what the heck is she talking about? But hold on, because this will make a lot of sense as we go through it. We need to test our own actions by examining ourselves, and doing this inside and out. Look at outside actions first and ask yourself, what am I choosing to spend my time on that is either getting me to this goal or isn’t getting me to this goal? Also, look on the inside and ask yourself, how is my attitude about this person or about their success holding me back from getting there or doing those things? Is my attitude creating a barrier between me and that person? This, then, opens us up to the rest if the verse, “Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.” So by examining ourselves, it allows for us to see where we need to grow in order to acknowledge our own achievements and gratefulness because God is who made those achievements possible, and this would allow for us to do that without lusting over someone else’s success. This will not only allow for us to be happier for others, but also it will bring us inner joy that can only come through Christ because when it is just you and God working together without the obstacle of jealousy (because God has a plan for all of us that is very unique), we can soar in joy in both ourselves and others.
In fact, when I was thinking through this, I thought of an Oreo. In an Oreo, there are the two outside sides of the cookie and the inside is the good stuff, now some of you can disagree with that but the inside of the Oreo is definitely the best part. But instead of thinking of this cookie like the typical Netflix snack, picture this… (holding an Oreo) this side represents when we are content in ourselves and our own success, and this other side represents when we are happy for others, and when those two are together, what it contains on the inside is the sweetest, and best part of the cookie. When we celebrate others and not look at them through eyes of jealousy and hate, it starts to form an inner joy and peace in our hearts that fills the inside. Now, God also talks about this in 1 John 4:7 as He is speaking through John He says, “Dear friends, let us love another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” When we love one another, that love is not coming from our human nature because that is very much unloving, we actually are loving by the one Who is love. The love we give others is the love God first gave us and when we love others with this love, it says we begin to know God and that we have been born in God. In knowing God, we also know that God has a lot to say about us that quite sadly we forget about or we take it for granted. We, instead, think way too much about what others think of us. This feeds the issue of comparing ourselves to others because others’ opinions can shape how we act, dress, or carry ourselves which can also have a huge impact in what we choose to focus on in terms of our goals. I was like this a lot last year while I, as many of you already know, attended a public school. I was so concerned about what others thought of me and how I could be like everyone else, or how I can “better myself” to be more acceptable or more celebrated amongst my peers. This caused me to go through a whole series of changes. I changed how I acted, I changed how I talked, how I carried myself, how I thought, I changed my values, morals, and I quite honestly reshaped my goals and completely changed my reputation. I did this all for the cause of wanting to be like everyone else to achieve the amount of friends so and so had and the list went on. I was so obsessed with achieving the happiness and fullness I thought they had that I nearly lost myself and who I was through the process. I lost sight of my goals and where I wanted to go. I had tunnel vision. So, now having left that public school and having the summer before coming here to find who I wanted to be and rediscover my values and goals, I have grown tremendously, and none of this could've been done apart from God. He told me all throughout this process by showing me that I was loved and that I was enough.
So instead of being so concerned about what others thinks about us, we need to change that to what does God think about us because His opinion is the only real opinion that matters. It will change our whole perspective on what we are living for, lives will be changed, and you will begin to experience the joy and freedom in all the areas of your life. In 1 John 4:16 it says, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” When we live this out and love God, it shows our genuine happiness for others’ success and achievements. But it also shines a light about who God is through us and can leave a lasting impact on that person as well.
Now, another thing that came to my mind when writing this, was the song “You Say” by Lauren Daigle. In this song, Lauren sings about trials and things we can feel about ourselves but immediately backs it up with what God says about her. She goes from, “I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I'm not enough, every single lie that tells me I will never measure up…” and in the chorus she immediately goes into “You say I am loved when I cant feel a thing” and “You say I am strong when I think I am weak”. You can see clearly how she immediately combats these negative thoughts about herself that for many of us are the reasons behind our jealousy for others. In the same way that Lauren Daigle combats these thoughts in her song, “You Say," we need to be combatting our negative and toxic thoughts with what God says as well. So when you feel like are desperately reaching for the success, money, looks, smarts, friends, that someone else has, immediately begin to think to yourself what God says about you. That you are loved. That you are strong, and that you belong. Also, if you feel like you are the one that has to keep fighting the voices in your head that say that you aren’t enough, or that you’ll never measure up... I would tell you, because this has helped me, to count the blessings in your life. All the things that you’re grateful for. It allows for you to feel so motivated and grateful towards what you already have and really how capable you are of achieving the goals you have always had at heart. And if there is a person you are jealous of or lusting over them in the things they have in life, pray for them. That can be so hard to do, but when you begin to make it a habit, it will get easier and easier. I also bet you will find yourself happier for that person and maybe even find yourself in a better connection with the Lord who always gives you joy and can help give you humility, love, and perseverance. When we grow close to God, it creates in us a feeling of fulfillment and wholeness. It creates this feeling in our achievements and in our day to day lives, so that we can be genuinely happy for others’ achievements and success, allowing for us to get closer to people and finally, allow for us to receive that joy and fulfillment God always meant for us to have.
Written by Katelyn Shaver