There are times, I'm sure, for many of us, when we wonder whether what we are spending our life on is worthwhile. And often these thoughts come about when we think about what other people are doing - and make comparisons.
Undercurrents in contemporary society do little to help with this - we're always confronted with bigger, better, faster, newer, in the hope that we become dissatisfied with what we already have, and part with our cash in order to have the next best thing.
And look, I generally enjoy things which are bigger, better, faster and newer. Who doesn't? But is this necessarily a healthy way to live? And does it lead us to become more dissatisfied with ourselves, and our lives? There is a pretty high risk that it can…
Over the last few weeks, I have been listening to some really helpful talks by Dr Arch Hart, from Fuller Seminary in California. He's a senior professor in psychology, and an expert on matters of mental health and wellbeing, especially amongst Christian leaders and pastors.
Among the many things he speaks about, he really got my attention when he spoke about the difference between success and significance. If we seek to be successful, regardless of our definition of success, we'll not be satisfied, and will often end up depressed. The endless treadmill of bigger, better etc. doesn't slow down, let alone stop.
But if we live our life in order to be significant things turn out quite differently. My life, my time, my money, the ministry and other activities I am engaged in are meaningful, and valuable, and even pleasing to God, when they are of significance.
Comparisons generally suck! I either compare myself with someone who, however subjectively I view them, is doing "better" than I am - and so I feel discouraged. Or, I compare myself with someone I am "clearly doing way better than…" and so I feel proud. It's lose / lose either way.
Significance, on the other hand, is quite different. It's a much better indicator of value, purpose and meaning than success. An enormous gum tree, which has stood for years, and provides shade from the heat of the sun is clearly significant. It makes a difference. It provides shelter and safety. A miniature chilli plant, despite seeming tiny in comparison to the large gum tree, is also of great significance. It is much smaller of course, and much easier to overlook - but it's fruit is real, powerful and potent.
Silly comparison? Yes. That's my point.
How do you go with comparing yourself with others? Are you chasing after success? Or seeking to be significant?