Last month I wrote on my experience with the destructive cycle of comparing. I believe this is an area all women (and men, to a degree) struggle with. When I was writing the post, I realized I was trying to justify my comparing by calling it, “looking up to people.” But there is a distinct difference between looking up to people and comparing myself to others.
It seems being a Christian doesn’t automatically make me immune to this destructive thinking. I can count many times I sat in my Bible study group and compared myself with others. In my previous job, I compared myself to my work colleagues, and I worked in a church office! This is where I realized that the comparison game is sneaky. I compared myself to my predecessor and why shouldn’t I? I was “looking up to her.” But really, I wasn’t.
Driving home from work I would feel discouraged and frustrated with myself. Playing the comparison game left me feeling self-doubt and low self-esteem. The more I compared, the more I lacked confidence and focus to do my job well. It is a dangerous game to play. It never ends well, no one ever wins.
Looking up to people, however, is another story. While comparing is a sin, the Bible encourages the idea of looking up to people. There are a number of examples in the Bible: Moses and Joshua, Naomi and Ruth, Elizabeth and Mary, Paul and Timothy, to name a few. These are all examples of mentoring. It is a concept I’d like to strongly encourage as well. In our single season, it is particularly important to find godly women who can walk alongside us to encourage, give wise counsel, and be a godly example to us.
The Titus model Paul speaks of in the book of Titus is one I believe in. Over the past couple of years I have been blessed with a number of older women who give wise counsel. The model comes from Titus 2:3-8,
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves too much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled…show yourself in all respected to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say.”(ESV)
Paul also encourages throughout the New Testament, be imitators of me, as I am of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1, ESV) and to join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do (Philippians 3:17, ESV). In 1 Timothy 5:1-2, Paul instructs the church on how to relate to one another. Not only are we united in Christ, but we are united as brothers and sisters, do not rebuke an old man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. (ESV)
Here is what this has looked like in my life:
An older woman in my church and I began to read a book together. We would meet together regularly, over some coffee, and talk about the chapter. It was a chance to discuss where we were in our faith, what we were struggling with, to challenge one another, and share how we could pray for each other over the coming weeks. This formed a relationship that provided an opportunity to encourage and build on the godly qualities Paul speaks about. It was an opportunity for me to look up to a godly female figure in my life.
If you are an older woman, how can you invest in someone? There may be some younger women in your church community. Pray about mentoring someone, and suggest meeting up to read the Bible together or chat over coffee.
If you are a younger woman, how can you find someone? Look for an older woman who has shown mature faith. It is not about finding someone perfect, but someone who can encourage you, who you can trust with solid, biblical, wise counsel, who you can spend time reading the word and praying for each other, and who can hold you accountable.
The comparison game is tricky to avoid, and it is worth not playing. Instead, can you be a Naomi or a Ruth? An Elizabeth or a Mary? Looking up to someone is a blessing to see the work of God in another woman’s life.
Katie is an Australian in her mid-twenties seeking to live with purpose Down Under. She is a passionate writer who desires to see her words encourage and bring hope to young women. Katie lives with an American family and 2 cheeky dogs. You can read more on Katie’s blog – Our Seasons of Grace – and you can follow her on Facebook.