By Cole Douglas Claybourn, Crosswalk.com
We are all called to a specific path according to the skills and abilities God has blessed us with. One of the biggest temptations we face is coveting someone else’s path and someone else’s skills and abilities.
This is especially true as it relates to leadership.
To some degree, we all want to feel like we have some amount of influence. Feeling a sense of importance is one of the primary needs on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, so it makes sense that we crave positions of leadership.
But it’s important that, whether we’re in a position of leadership or not, we avoid the temptation to compare ourselves to those who have been set apart for specific paths of leadership.
Comparison for Those Already in Leadership
First, we’ll address comparison as it relates to those who are already in a position of leadership. If you are in such a position, understand that God has placed you there for a specific purpose. Whether it’s a president of a large corporation or president of the student council, you have an obligation to steward that position and the responsibilities well and do right by those who serve under you.
Being in a position of leadership, particularly one that was voted on or selected by your peers, is an honor, no matter how big or small the role might seem. As Luke writes in chapter 12 verse 28, “from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
Coveting a different or more “prestigious” position belittles the trust that others, including God, have placed in you for that position and it also robs you of the joy and growth opportunities that might come from you fully embracing that position.
The Bible speaks to this several times — Colossians 3:17, Colossians 3:23-24, Proverbs 16:3 — essentially telling us that whatever we are called to do, we should do it with a full heart and one that honors God.
Moreover, it is impossible to lead well when you are comparing yourself to others. True leadership is most effective when it is done through servant leadership, where those in positions of influence are constantly looking out for those who serve them and work with them. Comparison is a selfish feeling, one that leads to feelings of envy, jealousy, and greed, or on the opposite end, leads us to look down on others and see ourselves as superior to someone. Neither fosters an environment for servant leadership.
To lead effectively is to humble ourselves and place the needs of our team, organization, or business ahead of our own. Acts 20:28 speaks to this: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”
It is understandable, though, for us in our sinful nature, that we will struggle with the temptation to want what someone else has. We see someone get a promotion or a job interview over us. We see someone named as the team captain when we feel we were qualified. Whatever the case is, we are often our own biggest advocate, and when we feel like we’ve been slighted, it can become instinctual to act defensively. This is often where feelings of comparison originate.
We might also feel tempted to look at someone else in leadership and feel envious of their effectiveness, the culture they’ve fostered, or the platform from which they are leading. What this does is diminish the role you are currently in and distracts you from that which you are trusted with — your own platform and people who you have influence over. This goes back to Luke 12:48.
Comparison for Those Not Yet in Leadership
Perhaps you’re not yet in a leadership position but you are desiring one, feeling as though you could lead better than someone else is. Perhaps that’s true, but also be aware that serving in leadership might not be what God has planned for you, and that’s not a bad thing. Take the role of pastor, for instance. The Bible is clear that not everyone is called to this position, though many might feel they are.
James 3:1 says, “not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”
It is indeed challenging at times to adhere to leadership that we might not always agree with, be it a government entity or even parental figures. As it relates to comparison, it can be tempting to look at those in a governmental role and believe we could be more effective. The Bible warns us to guard our hearts against this as well.
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” Romans 13:1-2
We understand that the key to defeating feelings of comparison, no matter their origin, is embracing contentment. Whatever the source of our feelings of comparison, they will always persist until we can choose contentment — both with what we have and what we don’t have. But how do we do that?
One of the best ways is to embrace a heart of celebrating others, even those who have been given things we desire, are in positions we feel more qualified for, or are in positions of leadership over us that we don’t feel they’re effective at. As Christians, we should seek to live according to Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Or, as it says in 1 Corinthians 16:14, “do everything in love.”
When we put others ahead of ourselves, we are running toward the heart of God and positioning ourselves to lead with a servant’s heart.
God has equipped each of us with a specific set of talents, abilities, and opportunities. We each have a specific story God is writing in us. Coveting anything other than God’s best plans for our lives will rob us of the joy He has set apart for us. Throughout the Bible, we are promised that God will take care of us according to His will and that such promises will bring us joy so long as we abide in them.
John 15:9-11 says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
Comparison is a feeling the enemy will always want you to experience because it distracts you from the truth in that verse. It puts you in a worldly chase for things that might not be from God. If you feel it on your heart that God has prepared you for leadership, spend time in prayer and seek discernment for your specific calling. But whether that comes to fruition or not, we are called to love God, love others, and live selflessly.
As we see in Romans 12:3-8, whether we are leading or serving, we must do it humbly.
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/kieferpix
Cole Douglas Claybourn is a writer and podcaster living in Bowling Green, Kentucky, with his wife, Emily. Cole teaches high school English and is the host of the In No Hurry Podcast. His work has been featured in RELEVANT Magazine, Sports Spectrum Magazine, Outreach Magazine, Think Eternity, and USA Today. He enjoys telling stories of where faith and creativity intersect and sharing his story to help Christians navigate through their own journey. You can also find his work at coleclaybourn.com.