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Monday, 25 April 2016

The Comparison Game by Fiona Lloyd



If I’d been a fly on the wall at the Last Supper, I’d have got pretty irritated with the disciples. There was Jesus, reminding them about how he was going to suffer – having been betrayed by one of their number – and explaining that in future they should share bread and wine as a remembrance of him. And what were the disciples doing at this pivotal moment in human history? Arguing about who among them was the greatest.

It’s easy to tut-tut and shake our heads at their immature behaviour; but I suspect that most of us are guilty of playing the comparison game from time to time. The media bombards us with unrealistic images of how we should look, while advertisements are carefully crafted to make us dissatisfied with our lot. Before we realise it, we’re measuring ourselves against others, thinking that life would be perfect if only we had a size eight figure, a designer wardrobe and a fortnight’s holiday in the Bahamas every summer.

As Christians, we understand – at least in theory – that we’re not supposed to be obsessed with outward appearances and material possessions. Sadly, we often settle for a more spiritualised version of the game instead, by wishing we had that person’s gift for sharing their faith, or another believer’s ability to preach stirring sermons. Maybe we notice how God has seemingly blessed the woman in the next pew more than us, and wonder if our efforts to serve him make any difference to anything. Elder-brother-itis is endemic in our churches…and I, for one, am not exempt.

But this attitude can cause serious (sometimes fatal) damage to our writing. It stifles creativity and suffocates the calling God has placed on us. While it can be helpful to look at other writers in terms of developing our skills, using their success as a yardstick for our own can be counterproductive. Measuring ourselves against other writers – as opposed to learning from them – will inevitably lead to discouragement.

I guess I need to stop comparing myself and be content with how God has made me (grey hairs and all). As far as my writing goes, that means rejoicing when others are successful, commiserating when they’re not…and being satisfied with what God calls me to do. I’d love to write a best-selling novel or pen a devotional that will draw millions of people closer to Jesus; but if I never do, it won’t lessen my value in God’s eyes. I am acceptable to him just as I am.

So, as Oscar Wilde once said: Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.






Fiona Lloyd works part-time as a music teacher, and serves on the worship leading team at her local church. She enjoys writing short stories, and is working on her first novel. Fiona self-published a violin tutor book in 2013, and blogs at www.fjlloyd.wordpress.com. She is married with three grown-up children. Fiona is ACW's membership secretary.

23 comments:

  1. Timely words, Fiona. Thank you.

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  2. Yes, wise words indeed Fiona. I have been thinking about this for a few days. Not just connected with my writing but with all of my life. I need to look to God for my security in who I am not others. I can learn from others as you say but my acceptance of who I am comes from God's immense love for me.

    Bless you for your wise words. Sometimes you just know when God is speaking to you about something don't you...?

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  3. YES. This is a constant battle, and quite often even worse because I compare my out-takes with other people's highlight reel and feel even more inadequate. Thank you for your wise reminder that our value is found in our identity as much loved children of God, and not what we look like or achieve.

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    1. Thanks, Helen - I think your point about not comparing our out-takes with other people's highlights is really helpful.

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  4. I think that British people who want to write have a problem: British Christians perhaps doubly so. British people are not encouraged to express their convictions. In fact we view conviction with suspicion. But where can we write from but conviction? Perhaps from some place of wobbly and self-deprecating emotion that others do not find threatening? It’s not surprising that we are afraid to search our own convictions – there are good historical reasons for the British suspicion of strongly held idea. However, for the person who suffers the urge to express something, and a psychological taboo against expression, the pain of cognitive dissonance is all that we can expect: that and perhaps furtive glances at others who appear to be expressing what we can’t, but who usually aren’t. We are trapped like people trying to hold in a fart at the Vicar’s tea party!

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    1. What a wonderful image! Maybe we need to take a deep breath and let it all out...

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  5. I was going to congratulate you on an insightful and honest post, Fiona, but then I got distracted by L.Davison's 'fart at the Vicar's tea party!' Classic! Now, I wish I could write a blog comment as witty as that ...

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Fiona - even if the comments section is more entertaining than the original post!

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    2. LOL! Did you write this before our little exchange about you know what last week?

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    3. I didn't actually write it until after our conversation - but I had it in my head beforehand.

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  6. Oscar Wilde said some good things!

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    1. I don't feel I really know his stuff, but this quote jumped out at me when I came across it last week.

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  7. Well said, Fiona! Been there done that. Or should I say, Am there, Doing that. It's not so much envy as a feeling of inadequacy and inferiority. But I suspect - and an article in the Daily Telegraph today confirms it - it's true of most of us.

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    1. Strange how we always think it's only us who struggles with this, and that everyone else is okay! Thanks for reading.

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  8. I also think social media doesn't help much. If you believe Facebook - everyone is having such a fantastic time- going to parties and conferences and having a social group the size of a small country. Makes my small everyday life look - well small and if I am not feeling sensible, I can easily fall for it.

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    1. I agree: I think Facebook can be very useful for some things - and I've made some lovely friends there - but there have been times when it's reduced me to a quivering heap of inadequacy.

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  9. Great post Fiona. Honest and challenging. All these things can be unhelpful for us if we let them. But we are responsible for the way we react to them, I suppose. Thanks for reminding us where our true security lies :)

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  10. Thanks, Deborah. It's helpful to be reminded that we can take responsibility for our reactions - otherwise, I can get caught up in feeling sorry for myself.

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  11. The thing that has struck me recently is that wherever we are in the writing game, there are always others more "successful" than us - richer on royalties, higher sales, bigger publishers, more awards, etc. I've resolved never to compare myself with any other writer, either further on than me, or not got so far yet. I don't want to succumb to either jealousy and bitterness on the one hand, or ego and pride on the other. I aim to focus simply on what I'm producing under God.

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    1. I think that's wise advice, Philip - it's just not very easy to follow sometimes!

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