One of the greatest temptations we, as humans, commit is to compare ourselves to others. Our human nature, in essence, is to be prideful. We compete against each other in every way possible, from grades to relationships to careers to status. I too dismiss others and make myself the center of my life. I guess I haven’t yet listened when my father always said, “Justus, someone will always be better than you.” Hearing those words growing up, I immediately had resentment thinking, “I’ll prove him wrong; I’ll be the best at something.”
American culture especially is very individualistic and selfish. We grow up hearing about the potential of ourselves, not the achievements we can accomplish as a community. When my friends score well on a test, and I don’t, I immediately envy them instead of celebrating. When a friend confesses a sin to me, I immediately feel a source of joy in my heart that they are somehow worse off than myself. I truly believe that individuality has led to less confession and more shame. To this day, the reason I don’t confess my wrongdoings is because by doing so I admit that I am not the best.
God has indeed challenged me lately to look through the history of “the greats.” One of the first people I thought of was John the Baptist. Jesus said that John was the “greatest” in Matthew 11:11. When I thought further about John’s story, I came across John 3:30, “He must increase, I must decrease.” Jesus said that John was the best. John achieved this not through a goal of being the best but his goal to make someone else, Jesus, the best.
If you are a Christian reading this, the probability that you know about Saint Paul is very likely. Paul is one of the most influential Christians of all time. He effectively wrote most of the New Testament and helped grow many churches in his ministry. However, Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 1:13, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.” Paul’s focus was in making Jesus the greatest, not himself.
Pride is a powerful weapon; it can blind us to what really matters and bring destruction on ourselves. How much better of a society would we be if we strived to build our communities instead of just focusing on ourselves? There is nothing wrong with accomplishments. But if we are captivated in ourselves instead of serving others, we can’t live meaningful lives. Like Paul, who didn’t bring himself up but instead the church, each of us should strive to make JBU a better place. I encourage you to have less focus on yourself and celebrate the people around you. Regardless of religion, this truth is universal and is needed everywhere, not the least, the Church.