Last week my oldest son and I were watching the NHL play-offs. My son was really enjoying the game and laying quietly on my bed as he watched. It was quite enjoyable just being with him and taking in the excitement of the game together. My younger son, however, was unable to settle down and he was being a distraction. Since it was getting late, and since he couldn't handle staying up to watch the game peacefully, I told him it was bed time. His response?
"What about Jake? Why does he get to stay up?"
No doubt if you have children you have heard something along the lines of, "But what about Jake! How come he gets to (fill in the blank)!" Or, "Not fair! Susie doesn't have to (fill in the blank)!"
My wife and I are doing all we can to teach our children how to be concerned with themselves alone, and to be grateful for the privileges and blessing they receive without comparing themselves to others. It can be exasperating when our children question us or compare and complain about the privileges of others, but as their parents we can not fail in teaching them these life lessons. If we don't, we'll end us raising our kids to be whiney, complaining, comparing adults who expect privilege and equality that isn't theirs to be concerned with.
I see these kinds of whiney, comparing adults all over the place.
- The sports parent who thinks their kid should get more playing time - when their talent level doesn't warrant it.
- The employee who thinks they should get a raise or a promotion - when they don't execute their own responsibilities at a high level.
- The individual who criticizes others' business success - yet doesn't put any of their own skin in the economic game.
- The school parent who is upset because her little angel wasn't put in the Advanced class, picked for the school play lead or asked to read the longest student reading at mass.
There is an interesting example of adult whining and comparing found in the Bible. John 21:20-23 records an interaction between the Apostle Peter and Jesus. Jesus had just finished speaking to Peter, telling Peter that he will have a special job to accomplish in leading the church, and that because of that service Peter will ultimately face suffering. Rather than being inspired and motivated, Peter does this.
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” (ESV)
Jesus responds to Peter's whining and comparing in a very stern way. If it is my will, what is it to you. In effect Jesus is telling Peter, worry about yourself. Don't compare situation to John's. Don't be concerned about equality and fairness and everyone getting the same treatment. If this is what I say to you, than you worry about you.
You worry about you.
This is a key strategy to happiness and success in life. The comparison game is a killer because there is always going to be someone who has it better than you, no matter how good you got it. There will always be a more skilled athlete, a smarter scholar, a smoother painter, a more creative executive, a stronger leader, a kinder parent, a more organized teacher, a more compelling preacher, and a more effective strategist. God has allotted different skills and talents and privileges and blessing to people as he has willed, and what is it to you what others have been given. You worry about you. I will worry and I. And in doing so we will be freed up to do the very best with what we have been given, free of the negativity and jealousy and bondage that comes in comparing ourselves with others and com paining about what we lack.