Sometimes I feel like my life is so small compared to others.
That my accomplishments are minuscule, when compared with everyone else, and that I have squandered my time and meager talents. To me, it looks like everyone around me is kinder, working harder, achieving more success, having bigger adventures, loving more and being more loved in return.
To me, my life looks insignificant by comparison.
I am never going to save millions of orphans like Mother Teresa did or be a compassionate humanitarian like Princess Diana. I’ll never write books that will be read and loved by children and adults like J.K. Rowling (and then donate millions of my earnings to charity).
I am never going to be the General Young Women’s president and be an inspiration and influence to young women and their leaders throughout the world. I have actually imagined one day holding this calling, but I realize that unless we move to Utah and I become an example of great service and love, this is never going to happen for me.
I continued to day-dream about this as recent as a few weeks ago, and was discouraged that I wasn’t called to be in the young women’s presidency in our newly organized ward. (Yes, I also suffer from calling envy.) I sometimes forget that I’ve served in ward and stake young women’s presidencies and maybe it’s someone else’s turn.
The problem is, when I compare myself, it is always to the most successful person in that arena and I never consider the trials and struggles that brought them to where they are. I never look at their weaknesses, which I might be strong in.
Quite simply, as author Steve Furtick wrote, “One reason we struggle with insecurity is we compare our behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel“ (“Crash the Chatterbox: Hearing God’s Voice above All Others”).
One of my best friends is tall, thin, blond and beautiful—my complete opposite. Tami is also generous and kind. I know because she has come to my recue on multiple occasions without my ever asking.
Early in our friendship, I looked at Tami—who is married to a pro-athlete, who became a pro-athlete coach, and they have three gorgeous children—and I thought her life looked pretty picture-perfect. I could not imagine how someone like Tami would want to be my friend. I felt like I was the DUFF (“designated ugly fat friend”) by comparison.
One Sunday, Tami pulled me out of Relief Society and we walked over to the temple and sat on the entrance steps. She told me her husband had Parkinson’s disease and right now he was with the team he coached, telling them. We cried and hugged.
Tami’s perfect life was not as perfect as I envisioned. In the midst of this trial, Tami went back to school and started her own, now successful, business and helped her husband start the Peterson for Parkinsons Foundation. Their strength under fire is inspiring.
We might think that everyone else is doing better, but actually, we’re usually seeing the dressed up version of their life that they present to the world. If we believe what we see on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media, it could appear everyone is going on exotic vacations, winning awards, dining at fancy restaurants, and attending weekly parties. No one posts about the sacrifices they made to achieve one of these events or that they cashed in all their frequent flyer miles to take the trip. It is a dressed up version of real life.
Self-appraisal can inspire us to make changes and work harder. Holding up others’ accomplishments and comparing ourselves negatively can crush our spirit and be very destructive. The Apostle Paul warned: “…measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12). Satan must revel when he hears us tearing ourselves down and believing we are not enough.
We all have our own personal set of strengths and weaknesses. We need to stop comparing our worst selves to the best of others, because we will always come up short. But that is easier said than done.
We have a new bishop and I am not happy about it. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to grow in our area and consequently, we find our ward boundaries reorganized again. In the time we have lived here in Tennessee, we’ve lived in two stakes and about 6 different wards due to growth. That is pretty awesome, really.
However, with this new change we have a new bishop who was not in our previous ward boundaries. I do not know him, but I know one thing about him: he lives in an exclusive gated community with multi-million dollar homes. He was actually introduced from the pulpit three times as the man “who lives in [insert name of his community].”
He may be a wonderful person who has worked hard to enjoy the fruits of his labor or maybe he’s given half his money to charity and he lives on the remainder, but all I heard was “rich and exclusive.” I felt like a loser by comparison.
For a few weeks I asked Heavenly Father to change my attitude toward this new bishop because, after all, I did raise my hand to sustain him in this new calling, which means I need to get on board.
The first fast Sunday, a woman bore her testimony, and in it, she praised our new bishop for having been a loving home teacher to her family. Last week, the bishop’s daughter spoke in sacrament meeting. She shared glowing tributes to her parents and praised them for their example and love. At the conclusion of her talk, I offered a silent prayer to thank Heavenly Father for my hearing these two women, whose words had softened my heart. Coincidentally, the woman who spoke was just assigned to be one of my visiting teachers. Apparently God wants me to have more opportunities to hear her speak glowingly about my new bishop.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “Brothers and sisters, there are going to be times in our lives when someone else gets an unexpected blessing or receives some special recognition. May I plead with us not to be hurt—and certainly not to feel envious—when good fortune comes to another person? We are not diminished when someone else is added upon. We are not in a race against each other to see who is the wealthiest or the most talented or the most beautiful or even the most blessed. The race we are really in is the race against sin, and surely envy is one of the most universal of those.” (General Conference, Apr. 2012)
In Jesus’ parable of the laborers, the householder “went out early in the morning to hire labourers.” After he hired the first group, he returned mid-morning, noon, mid-afternoon, and a final time about an hour before the work was completed. When all the workers gathered to receive their wages, some were surprised to discover the householder paid them all the same amount. The first hired became angry, stating, “These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day” (see Matthew 20:1-15)
Some reading this parable might also feel there was an injustice done. Listen to what Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said about it: ‘
“First of all it is important to note that no one has been treated unfairly here. The first workers agreed to the full wage of the day, and they received it. Furthermore, they were, I can only imagine, very grateful to get the work. In the time of the Savior, an average man and his family could not do much more than live on what they made that day. If you didn’t work or farm or fish or sell, you likely didn’t eat. With more prospective workers than jobs, these first men chosen were the most fortunate in the entire labor pool that morning.”
“Indeed, if there is any sympathy to be generated, it should at least initially be for the men not chosen who also had mouths to feed and backs to clothe. Luck never seemed to be with some of them. With each visit of the steward throughout the day, they always saw someone else chosen.”
“But just at day’s close, the householder returns a surprising fifth time with a remarkable eleventh-hour offer! These last and most discouraged of laborers, hearing only that they will be treated fairly, accept work without even knowing the wage, knowing that anything will be better than nothing, which is what they have had so far. Then as they gather for their payment, they are stunned to receive the same as all the others! How awestruck they must have been and how very, very grateful! Surely never had such compassion been seen in all their working days.” (General Conference, Apr. 2012)
When I read Elder Holland’s words, I was overcome with emotion. My life has been so blessed. I never stop to compare myself with those who are homeless, who live in war-ravaged countries, who have little or no worldly possessions and risk their lives and what they do have for freedom and opportunity. My son experienced horrendous abuse before he was removed from his birth home and again in the foster care system. I never compare my life’s opportunities and blessings with his.
When Jesus called his disciples, they were a fisherman, a tax collector (a profession that made you very unpopular), and others—they were not the richest, the smartest, the most accomplished. He looked into their hearts and saw their potential; that is how He valued them.
Elder Henry F. Acebedo explained, “the economy of heaven is different. When we are baptized, ordained to the priesthood, or participate in the ordinances of the holy temple, we covenant to be obedient to God and magnify our callings. In return, the Lord promises that if we are faithful we will receive “all that my Father hath” (D&C 84:38), or exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God (see D&C 84:33–41). There is no higher wage or reward that the Lord can offer; it is the greatest of all His gifts (see D&C 14:7).” (Ensign, Sep. 2003)
I love this scripture in Romans, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ;…” (Romans 8:16-17)
Never does it say that Jesus Christ thought this arrangement was unfair. He who was perfect; who loved and sacrificed more than any other human being has said He will share “all that my Father hath” (D&C 84:38).
My husband often reminds me that I have done some pretty cool things in my life and have a lot to be grateful for. What I am most proud of is marrying him in the Salt Lake Temple. I am proud that we adopted Cory, and even though his life is not yet what I dreamed for him, it is far better than what he had before we met him because now he has the gospel in his life and two parents that love him.
I am proud of the time I spent teaching youth in Sunday school, young women, and especially seminary (five years and counting; I hope to add to those numbers). I am proud of the time Kev and I served as temple ordinance workers, before we adopted Cory. I am proud of the good friends, old and young, who make my life rich. These are the things I am most proud of in my life. These are the moments I need to treasure when my mind wanders off and wants to compare my life with someone else’s highlight reel.
It is not a coincidence that my life is most joyful when I am teaching seminary or helping someone I love. President Spencer W. Kimball said: “the more we serve our fellowmen in appropriate ways, the more substance there is to our souls. We become more significant individuals as we serve others. We become more substantive as we serve others—indeed, it is easier to “find” ourselves because there is so much more of us to find!” (Ensign, Dec, 1974)
In a BYU devotional, George P. Lee shared: “There is a poetic phrase in Navajo folklore that goes something like this: ‘May I walk in beauty—beauty behind me, beauty in front of me, beauty above and beneath me, and beauty all around me.’ To a Navajo, to ‘walk in beauty’ simply means to be happy and to have peace of mind and peace with oneself; to be happy and at peace with others; to be happy and at peace with the environment and the world; and to be happy and at peace with the Great Spirit.”
To read more on this topic:
Stop Comparing Yourself to Others (Mormon Channel blog)
What Am I Worth by Adam C. Olsen
Parables of Jesus: The Laborers by Elder Henry F. Acebedo
Do you compare yourself to others’ highlight reels? If so, what are you doing to stop?