The Truth About Guilt and Comparison
By Doug Fields
Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, —Galatians 6:4
Most Christians claim to want to connect with God regularly—or at least they want the benefits of the richer life that results from consistent connections. But when it comes to turning desire into discipline, most don’t. Failure gives birth to guilt.
The guilt can be crushing. Wonderful people limp through the Christian life marred by it. It’s guilt, guilt, guilt 24/7—I don’t pray enough. I’m not reading the Bible like I should. I haven’t witnessed to my neighbor. I don’t spend enough time with God…Guilty.
If guilt defines you, I’m so sorry. I pray that you’ll come to see that you’re not a “lousy Christian” if you don’t have a traditional quiet time. The Christian life is not about locks and chains. Jesus Christ came to set us free. Yes, some guilt may serve as God’s motivation, but too many Christians cower because of false guilt—aka condemnation—that they’ve heaped upon their own shoulders because they’ve compared themselves to an unrealistic model and come up short. That type of guilt is wrong and unfair and it will weigh you down and wear you out.
Comparison is deadly, yet so natural. It’s easy to place ourselves next to someone we think has it together spiritually, constantly taking mental notes on how we don’t measure up. Yet, comparison only assumes that others are doing what we’re not and so we end up contrasting what we know about ourselves (everything) with what we don’t really know about others (which is almost everything). Again, not fair.
Then, to make maters worse, we hear stories about people such as Martin Luther, who awoke each day at 4:00 a.m. and spent hours with God. “I have so much to do today that I should spend the first three hours in prayer,” he said. Now, that really piles on the guilt. I’m really happy for Martin Luther that he was able to pull that off. But, as for me, I’m not a morning person. I didn’t even know there was a 4:00 a.m. until I read his quote in seminary.
For me, I’d much rather hear something about how his early-morning prayer sessions made him extremely grumpy in the afternoons because of his lack of sleep. That would be something I could really relate to!
Here’s my encouragement: please stop comparing. You aren’t Martin Luther. Neither am I. You’re you! God designed you to be you in your faith too. I’m not suggesting you can’t have intimacy with God similar to that of other heroes of our faith; of course you can. But, I’m asking you to quit comparing and instead, be challenged to learn how to connect with God in realistic ways that fit with how you’re wired. You can do this! I know you can.
1. How have you felt like a spiritual loser when you compare yourself to others?
2. Consider the ways which you compare yourself to others. When you catch yourself doing it, focus on the truth that God created you to be unique, and that he doesn’t compare you to anyone.