There was a time in the not-so-distant past when I allowed the enemy to use the strengths of the people I love to convince me that my own gifts were worthless. A time when instead of appreciating their gifts and how they benefited not only me but God’s Kingdom, I let jealousy creep in and take away my joy. Sometimes I still struggle with the temptation to envy what other people have to offer, but God helped me realize that He can use me a whole lot more when I choose to be inspired rather than to compare. So, I have begun exploring what it is like to do just that, and I welcome you into the beginnings of that journey!
Many of my friends are really good at loving people. They are those friends that you just feel cherished and appreciated by the second you step into their presence. When I am in community with these friends or serving alongside them, people naturally gravitate toward them. And who wouldn’t? They have a gift for giving love to everyone they come across.
I on the other hand, sometimes struggle with making my love for people known. My relationships take a little longer to build, even when I am serving and intending to love, because I have a hard time wearing my heart on my sleeve. I don’t like accepting this about myself, and to be honest, I still wish I were a little warmer and more sensitive to the needs of others. But for a long time, I chose to deal with this in an unhelpful, even hurtful, way.
Being surrounded by these friends with the natural ability to love well, I ended up making a lot of unhealthy comparisons between us. I was jealous because of how many people were drawn to them and thought they had an unfair advantage in relationships. Even though I personally enjoyed feeling loved and cherished by these friends, my jealousy caused me to resent the love that they gave me.
While it is good for us to hope and pray that we can become better at loving those around us, the comparison begins to eat away at us when we let it devalue how God has gifted us. In those times when I have let it grow strong in my heart, it didn’t allow me to fully appreciate and develop my own gifts or to love people from where I was. It has caused me to try to love people as a sort of competition with those friends, as if I had to prove that I was worthy of relationships too. This is obviously a sinful attitude to have and has never helped me love people more… it actually causes me to withdraw and become even more self-focused.
One of these times, fairly recently, I was in the depths of this comparison and distaste for the way God has made me. My close friend, with whom I was serving overseas, was just doing her thing – loving me well even though I didn’t want to accept it. I was talking about this with another friend who was in community with us, who told me of her own experiences with comparison. Long story short, after struggling with comparison, she told me that God convinced her to thank Him every time she saw her friend succeeding, and to be glad that this other friend was so good at serving the Kingdom in the way she had been gifted.
This conversation made me realize how important and productive it is to choose inspiration over comparison. If we are thankful and inspired that we have a friend who is so good at loving people, we can begin to learn from her rather than self-destruct in our own jealousy. We can love people with our own abilities and the way Christ has taught us to, instead of being concerned with how we measure up to those around us. This realization freed me up to be honest with where I was and to accept opportunities for growth.
Being anything less than inspired by the strengths of others in the body of Christ is selfish. It’s putting ourselves above the functioning of His body as a whole, and above the ultimate purpose that God has on this Earth. He didn’t put people with a special ability to love in my life so that I would become overcome by envy, but so that I could grow into a person who could better love others by being who He has called me to be.