Why You Should Trade Counterproductive Comparisons for Empowering Emulation

What if comparing ourselves with others didn’t have to lead to beating ourselves up, feeling inadequate, and despairing of ever being good enough? I wrestle with feelings of inadequacy and can quickly become paralyzed by a sense of coming up short when I compare myself with others. But this week, God reminded me of an important truth. Patterning our lives after good examples can help us mature into persons of confidence, joy, and purpose capable of fulfilling the calling God has for us.

0ptimized2014_10_27_EmpoweringEmulation

Photo courtesy of iStock Photo.com © justinkendra

How wreath envy and seeing a friend reminded me of a profound truth.

I’m one of the least crafty people you’ll ever meet. For this reason, I usually avoid Pinterest like the plague as I am more apt to produce a “Pinterest fail” than replicate Pinterest perfection.

Earlier this week, I lugged out the Fall decorations, and surveyed the stockpile. I had hoped to find a wreath for the front door, but came away from my assessment realizing much of my supply was broken and pretty shabby after many years of use.

As there was no budget for buying a wreath, I realized I would have to use what I had to make one. I reluctantly went to Pinterest for some ideas. I found oodles of beautiful wreaths—none of which I was capable of replicating perfectly.

In the midst of this wreath envy I stopped to meet a friend for an unrelated appointment. As I drove away from that encounter with this woman I greatly admire and try to emulate in many ways, God reminded me of the power of having a good example to follow.

Patterning our lives after a role model doesn’t mean we must look exactly like the person we emulate—we are unique creations after all. But by following the good examples of others, we can cultivate strengths, shore up weaknesses, and become aware of aspects of ourselves that don’t serve us well so we can eliminate those.

Emulate, don’t replicate.

“Hmmm,” I thought, “what if I don’t try to replicate one of those wreaths I liked on Pinterest, but instead identify attributes I liked about my favorites and emulate those aspects?”

An hour or so later, I had ripped apart the old decorations, salvaged the parts that still looked decent, tossed the rest, and applied ample amounts of hot glue. The result, a wreath for our front door from things I thought were ready for the trash. It’s not Pinterest perfect, but it serves its purpose and make me happy when I look at it. Here’s a photo of my wreath.

Wreath

My wreath doesn’t look exactly like any of the ones I used as my inspiration. It is, however, a unique expression of the attributes I liked in the examples.

  • It has a large burlap bow, like one example.
  • It has two large pumpkins at the base, like another.
  • It incorporates flowers like a third example.
  • And, it has symmetry like a fourth.

It wasn’t a perfect copy of any but rather a new creation that exhibited the positive attributes of the ones it was modeled after.

Transforming What We Have into What We Want

Just like I needed to take stock of what I had on hand before I could begin to fashion it into a wreath I wanted to hang on my door, I must begin my personal and spiritual growth process with an honest assessment of who I am today.

Priorities, responsibilities, and our roles change in different seasons of our lives. What worked beautifully last year may not be serving me well this year. So, it is inevitable I will sense a need for inspiration, growth, and change which leads me to look around at what could be.

A Culture of Counterproductive Comparison

I have to be careful how I go about that process, though. If I approach it the wrong way, the result is often counter-productive.

When I make a comparison with the wrong kind of inspiration (Photoshopped images on a magazine cover, a snapshot of idealized hospitality, fashion, or parenting on Pinterest, Facebook, and other media, for example) I set myself up for a false sense of failure.

And even if I pick the right example to follow, there is a danger in comparing my starting point to other people’s end results. When I feel stuck in a rut of barely keeping up, their lives of purpose, integrity, and joy can leave me feeling like I don’t know where to start much less how to accomplish such a transformation.

So what’s the answer?

Rather than making counterproductive comparisons and beating ourselves up for not being perfect, what if we enlisted others who could help us cultivate the attributes we desire to exhibit in our lives?

The Power of a Positive Pattern

Patterning ourselves after a positive role model provides two important benefits:

1. Process. A relationship with someone we admire provides access to not only the end result, but also the process of how to move from where we are to where we want to be.

2. Place. Once we know the process of what to do, we must have a safe space in which to practice doing those things that lead to growth. A good relationship provides a nurturing environment in which we don’t feel pressure to be perfect but instead find encouragement and accountability that leads to progress.

The “Follow Me” Methodology of Jesus

This is exactly the method Jesus used to instruct, inspire, and transform ordinary men and women into extraordinary people who accomplished incredible feats of compassion, courage, and calling.

Jesus invited his disciples to follow him; to live alongside him in a relationship that inspired, instructed, supported and encouraged them to become exactly who God created them to become.

As they followed Jesus, they discovered astounding strengths they had no idea lay within them. Jesus also pointed out areas of weakness that needed to be shored up. And he even identified things they needed to lay aside altogether in order to grow into people capable of fulfilling the purpose and calling God had for them.

Good Emulators Get Emulated

Jesus emulated his Father and called his followers to emulate his own example. And the methodology was carried on by his apostles. In his letters, the apostle Paul frequently called on the new believers to be imitators of him and the other apostles. And why were they appropriate role models? Because they were imitators of Christ. (See, for example, 1 Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 3:17, 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7, 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9).

Choose a Good Model So You Become a Good Model

So when you feel a need for inspiration, growth, and change, beware the dangers of counterproductive comparisons and looking to those who pattern themselves after the world’s values and character.

Rather, spend time each day reading the Scriptures, learning to recognize the values and characteristics of our perfect role model, Jesus. Then, reach out to those around you who exhibit his attributes. Spend time with them and learn from them.

Just like Jesus’ first disciples, you’ll discover strengths you had no idea lay within you, weaknesses that need buttressing, and probably a few things best laid aside.

And before you know it, you’ll grow into someone capable of fulfilling the purpose and calling God has for you. And part of that calling will be acting as a role model for others who will learn from your example.

How about you? How have you experienced personal or spiritual growth as a result of patterning your life after a good role model? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

I hope you'll jump into the conversation by leaving a comment. I would love for each post to be like a dinner party conversation in which many people participate, each adding their own perspectives and ideas. Just keep in mind that we want to treat others as we would like to be treated, so please keep your comments constructive and on topic. Feel free to post viewpoints and ideas that differ from mine or others but refrain from personal attacks or offensive language. I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, or which demean or belittle another member of the Making It Real community.