Earlier in my life, I struggled terribly with inferiority. Inadequacy, insufficiency, incompetence, and deficiency are just a few words to express the feelings that tried to master my self-image. Today I want to share what I learned from my experience with that struggle, as well as a great truth I found in my studies of Second Corinthians 10:12: “…They measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” I believe the principle I discovered in this verse will help you if you’re facing a similar challenge and long to be free.
When our teaching ministry was first getting started in the 1980s, I wondered, Who will ever want to have us minister in their church or conference? Denise and I had been living in a small city and had very few contacts beyond our little circle, so it seemed like a logical question. On one hand, I knew God had called us to teach His Word across the earth — but on the other hand, I questioned how that call would work. No one knew who we were. No one had ever heard us teach the Bible. There was simply no logical reason why anyone would invite us to teach the Word in his or her church or conference.
We began to schedule meetings in small churches all across the United States. We joyfully walked through every door and took every opportunity that opened for us, even accepting invitations to speak in home Bible studies. But frequently the enemy would bombard my mind with tormenting thoughts to inflame old feelings of insecurity: This is it for you! You’ll never do anything with your call on a large or significant scale. Your entire ministry will be to small groups of people!
When we would get into our car to leave those meetings, I’d share my struggles with Denise, and she’d try to encourage me. But the devil was hounding me with accusing thoughts of impending failure, telling me that I would be insignificant for the rest of my life.
I especially felt assaulted when we attended conferences or seminars to hear other speakers. Rather than be blessed by those meetings, I was busy trying to defend my mind against the barrage of negative thoughts that assailed me almost constantly. I vividly recall the devil telling me:
- “You don’t measure up to other speakers.”
- “Your style isn’t like theirs.”
- “You ARE nothing and you HAVE nothing to offer in comparison to others.”
- “You’ll live and die a failure because you are too different from everyone else, and you’ll never be accepted.”
I fell into the trap of measuring and comparing myself to others — and the end result was always feeling like I fell hopelessly short. The devil literally tried to devastate me with feelings of inadequacy, deficiency, and inferiority. The more I compared myself to others, the more I felt “less than” — that is, until God’s Spirit reached into my heart and set me free.
The reason I share this intimate struggle from my past is that I know there are many who compare themselves to others as I once did. In fact, this may be your struggle. If it is, I hope what I found in Second Corinthians 10:12 will help set you free, just as it helped me find freedom from that terrible mental bondage that almost crippled me and my ministry.
When the apostle Paul wrote his second epistle to the Corinthians, he told them, “Comparing yourselves among yourselves is not wise” (see 2 Corinthians 10:12). The word “wise” in this verse was translated from the Greek word sophos, which means specially enlightened, wise, sharp, or bright. This verse could be interpreted: “Comparing yourselves among yourselves is not the wisest, sharpest, or brightest thing to do!”
I can attest from personal experience that comparing yourself to others is not the brightest thing to do! It can be a fruitless endeavor that makes you feel worse and even more inferior and insecure than you ever felt before.
The word “comparing” in Second Corinthians 10:12 is the Greek word sunkrino, and it paints the picture of two or more people standing side by side to thoroughly examine themselves in comparison to one another — and then critically judging to see who is superior among the candidates. One group would be classified as superior, while the other group would be classified as inferior relative to that other group. The simple truth is that such comparing is a fleshly endeavor that produces no spiritual fruit! It puts one up, puts another down, and fails to recognize the manifold, diverse graces of God that exist in the Christian community.
The Corinthian believers were fighting among themselves to prove who was the greatest among them. When Paul wrote this verse, he wrote it to rebuke them for making such comparisons. They didn’t have a problem with feelings of inferiority, as I struggled with earlier in life. Instead, they had an issue with feelings of superiority and were in fierce competition with each other to prove who was the best of the best among them! Paul wrote this verse to rebuke the Corinthian believers for making comparisons, exhorting them to stop their infighting as they tried to prove who was the most spiritual among them.
However, there is a principle in this verse that the Holy Spirit used to help set me free from the spirit of inferiority that tried to plague me as I stepped out to obey God’s call on my life. And it is exactly the point I want to get across to you today. God intentionally made you different from others. You are actually a result of His divine design. Your mannerisms, insights, and style that are different from others may be the very qualities that make you uniquely positioned to fulfill a specific need.
Of course, we all have areas in our lives that need to be changed, and God will show those areas one at a time. But if you will simply quit comparing yourself to others today — if you will stop disparaging the very qualities that cause you to stand out from those around you — you will open the door to freedom from a spirit of inferiority so that your unique gifts can begin to shine brightly as God intended.
In my own case, what I thought was something negative — having a different teaching style than others — was the very thing that made me uniquely qualified to fulfill my call. When I finally understood that God was the One who made me different, I began to see that I could shine His light in ways that others could not. What I thought would hold me back was actually what gave me my place in His plan! When I began to accept who God made me to be, I was freed from the devil’s mental assault and began to step out of the shadows so God could use me in a greater way. I was finally able to embrace the uniqueness that made me shine differently from others.
That can be your story too! You can make the decision today that you won’t go down that bumpy, twisted road — comparing yourself to others and always coming up short — ever again. Today you’re going to start celebrating the differences that make you uniquely you!
As I close this letter, I want to ask you:
- Have you ever struggled with being different from others? In what ways do you think you are different from other people?
- After reading this letter, can you see how being unique puts you in a category of your own? Why not take a few minutes to write down the ways that being unique is a positive factor in your life?
- How can you maximize your uniqueness? Every product is known because it has something to offer that other products don’t offer. What do you have to offer that distinguishes you from other people? If you don’t know or you aren’t sure, ask God to show you. Perhaps you could ask others who know you — I believe they could share some positive insights that will help you on your journey to freedom.
By Rick Warren