His name was Andy. In prison, he completed the required therapy group. He volunteered and completed additional therapy groups and was hired to be a homework aide to help other men who were working through their issues in treatment. Andy was intelligent, personable, and good looking. He was also prideful. It was important to him to feel like he was better than everyone else in prison. We asked him if he thought he was better in every way. He smiled and said, “Yes.” So, for example, if we ask everyone if they think they are above average drivers, what do you think they would say? “Above average.” So, if everyone is above average, then doesn’t that mean that you and I, all of us, are average?
In reality, how often should we be comparing ourselves to others? Or maybe I should simply be comparing where I am today compared to where I was yesterday. Am I making a little progress? Even with my mistakes and poor choices, am I increasing in learning, experience, knowledge, and wisdom? How am I doing on the path of eternal progression? How does comparing to others hinder my own progress and distract from my own growth?
Sister Joy D. Jones, former Primary General President, told the story of the Singh sisters from India. Renu, the first of five sisters to join the Church, shared these thoughts:
“Before I started investigating the Church, I didn’t really feel that I was very special. I was just one of many people, and my society and culture didn’t really teach me that I had any value as an individual. When I learned the gospel and learned that I was a daughter of our Heavenly Father, it changed me. Suddenly I felt so special—God had actually created me and had created my soul and my life with value and purpose.”
“Before I had the gospel in my life, I was always trying to prove to others that I was someone special. But when I learned the truth, that I am a daughter of God, I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone. I knew that I was special. … Don’t ever think that you are nothing.”
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” We can stop comparing our worst to someone else’s best. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt (Value Beyond Measure, General Conference, October 2017.)
Adjusting to Missionary Life encourages us to Focus on what you do right, and avoid comparing yourself to others. People with excessively high expectations tend to overfocus on their weaknesses and failures. Then, instead of improving, they may feel hopeless. When reading scriptures, focus on the parts that most apply to you as a beloved servant of God. Look for evidences of God’s patience, grace, hope, and mercy with those who love and desire to serve Him.
President Ezra Taft Benson (August 4, 1899 – May 30, 1994) shared the words of C. S. Lewis: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.” (Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952, pp. 109–10.) (Beware of Pride, General Conference, April 1989.)
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught the brethren in General Priesthood meeting, “At its core, pride is a sin of comparison, for though it usually begins with “Look how wonderful I am and what great things I have done,” it always seems to end with “Therefore, I am better than you.”
Elder Uchtdorf continues: “We are servants of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We are not given the priesthood so that we can take our bows and bask in praise. We are here to roll up our sleeves and go to work. We are enlisted in no ordinary task. We are called to prepare the world for the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We seek not our own honor but give praise and glory to God. We know that the contribution we can make by ourselves is small; nevertheless, as we exercise the power of the priesthood in righteousness, God can cause a great and marvelous work to come forth through our efforts. We must learn, as Moses did, that “man is nothing” by himself but that “with God all things are possible.”
Elder Uchtdorf concludes: “My beloved brethren, let us follow the example of our Savior and reach out to serve rather than seeking the praise and honor of men. It is my prayer that we will recognize and root out unrighteous pride in our hearts and that we will replace it with “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, [and] meekness.” (Pride and the Priesthood, General Conference, October 2010.)
May the Lord continue to bless us to remember who we are and whose we are. As children of Heavenly Parents, we all are truly “above average” and “beyond comparison.”
[Note: The ideas and suggestions contained in these articles are tools and suggestions for self-care, but they are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a qualified mental health professional. In addition, if you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please seek medical or mental health assistance immediately. In the U.S., call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Or use the Lifeline Chat at 988lifeline.org/chat/. Services are free and confidential.]