At the start of a new year, many people make resolutions and are inspired to make changes in their lives. This year my resolution is to have no resolution.
The problem with resolutions is that it can place you on a dangerous course of comparison. We constantly compare images, status, children, wealth, skills or values.
Although dangerous, comparison also is quite essential for our growth and development. We all need a parent, teacher, friend, pastor or role model to guide us and teach us. Most times your mentor knows something more than you, hence the comparison: you know more; I know less. Therefore, I want to know what you know. There’s also the triple comparison: he is “better” than me, but I’m “better” than she.
One tricky comparison is that of suffering. For example, someone’s family member dies and another person’s marriage is over. Though different, both are experiencing the same feelings of pain, grief and loss. To compare the extent of one’s trials is not so important, in my opinion.
While we all have an inner desire to grow and evolve, comparison can quickly take a nasty detour into the realm of envy, resentment and jealousy. One of my friends recently had an audition and was devastated when she didn’t get the role. She poured her heart out, wanting to be recognized, compared all the groups that tried out and logically reasoned why she would be fit for the part. When it didn’t happen, she felt like a failure.
I assured her she was not a failure, and reminded her that there is much beauty and much to be gained in the process that happens before even stepping foot on stage. Of course everyone wants to win the “prize,” but the “prize” is always short-lived. It’s in the sweat, tears and heartache, the camaraderie gained in working with others on a shared vision, and the pouring out of every ounce you have, where lasting growth (versus merely “trying hard” to achieve an end result or goal) takes place.
And the real questions are:
- Once you get the “prize,” what are you going to do with it?
- Once you reach a certain level of influence, how are you going to translate what’s been given to you?
- Are you going to help, inspire and serve others? Or simply build up and inflate the kingdom of yourself?
- What do you do every day and what are your most simple pleasures?
- Do you wake up every morning thankful to be alive and loving what you do? If not, what are you doing and why are you doing it?
- Is there a block stopping you from pursuing your passions, or have you decided to give up your passions to serve others?
Sometimes we have to do things we hate, and sacrifice a part (if not all) of ourselves for an extension of ourselves (family, students, population in need). Are you striving to serve a higher purpose beyond your own gratification and needs?
The bottom line is to stop trying. Stop trying to be better than your neighbor and better than the standards we self-impose and create for ourselves. Who are we trying to prove ourselves to? Does it really matter if your neighbor has a bigger television or a nicer lawn? Does it matter if the person you love chooses someone else, your coworker gets the promotion though you “deserve” it, and the other person has better skills, according to a group of “judges?”
Yes, sometimes we are faced with unfortunate situations; however, perhaps it is in the way we handle and process a particular circumstance that can make or break us.
Another tricky comparison is that of status and values. Many take pity for those “below” us: the homeless man, the abused child, or the lost, wayward criminal.
At first glance, one may appear to be a righteous, selfless person with a caring heart, always wanting to help others. However, the reality is, we’ve all felt unsatisfied or without a home, have been abused, and felt lost at some point or another. We are not above anyone and need to stop comparing. Just get up and do what needs to be done.
We can’t really earn our way through life (or into heaven, if you want to take it there). No matter what, we will never measure up and will always fall short. And that is absolutely OK. Once you open your heart to accepting this, it is actually quite beautiful and freeing.
All we have to do is relax into every moment that’s been given to us. Wake up with a purpose. And if you don’t know yet what that purpose is or are constantly unsure, in the words of Stevie Wonder, “when you feel your life’s too hard… just go have a talk with God.”