I love clothing and jewelry with words or quotes on them. I don’t mean the ones with logos or vacation destinations on them, although I own plenty of those as well. I’m talking about the ones that remind me to “be brave” or “be the change you wish to see in the world” or “just breathe.”
So, of course, I was drawn to a pair of Alegria brand shoes with all sorts of positive affirmations written on them: “universal love,” “peace and love,” “visualize peace.” One day, I looked down at these shoes, and read one of the slogans, “we’re number one.” Immediately, the chant of this phrase ran through my head in the same way we yell it at sporting events with our pointer fingers outstretched, “we’re number one, we’re number one!” A minute later, I realized that “we’re number one” didn’t really match with the other mantras on the shoes. I looked back down and reread the motto. It didn’t say “we’re number one” after all. In actuality, it said, “we are one.”
I’d misread the shoe – big time. “We are one,” was much more in keeping with the mood of the shoe. Bragging about being the best contradicted the theme and the drawings of flowers, peace symbols, and hearts that adorned them. Why was my default assumption about being better than others as opposed to being in harmony with others?
I’ll admit that I’m competitive by nature. I like to win, especially with respect to sports and grades when I was younger and in school. But I try to be kind and reach out to others. I want to include people, don’t I? Or, do I let competition separate me from other people?
Sometimes, I compare myself to others. Okay, more than sometimes. Comparison is more of an automatic reaction. I don’t consciously decide to compare myself to other people but do it, nonetheless. Comparison, for me, is just another form of competition. Often, my insecurities show up in the competitions in which I choose to participate. When I feel that I don’t measure up, I tend to focus on that quality in others. I want to be the best, but I don’t necessarily win the comparison competition. A lot of times, I look at others and laser in on how they are thinner, seem to have it all together, have a better personality, or are more well-liked (does high school ever end?). As usual, I compare my interior, emotional life to others’ external life as displayed in person or on social media.
But God doesn’t compare us. I have a hard time believing that God loves me, not in comparison to anyone else, but for who I am. For who he made me to be. He doesn’t need to compare. He knows us – what we think, how we feel, what makes us happy, angry or sad, what we dream, and who we are in the quiet moments when we are alone and the most honest with ourselves. God knows, but he still doesn’t compare us to each other.
God’s love is not a competition we need to try and win. We can’t make God love us more by convincing him we are “better” than others. He loves us individually and unconditionally. He gives his grace and mercy freely. Instead of comparing and competing, God would much rather we work together to do his work on Earth: spread peace, help those in desperate need, try to get along. Pretty much the opposite of competition.
There’s no need to routinely compare or compete with anyone else. I confess that this may be difficult for me personally. But I’m going to make an effort to be more mindful when I find myself falling into the competition trap. I may even put my shoes on to remind myself that we don’t have to be number one all of the time because, in fact, “we are one.”