I met a retired NFL player a few weeks ago. He owned a hot chicken restaurant just outside of Nashville, and we struck up a conversation because he once played for my favorite football team (Go Colts!). He talked to me about his lineman days and how he was investing his money now that he was retired. When I got home I googled him—he’s only three years older than I am.
I won’t be close to retiring in 30 years, let alone three. It feels weird when most NFL players are younger than me.
They’ve made more money in their lives already than I will ever make in mine. As someone hardwired to provide for my wife and kids, that melts my bones.
Here’s some transparency: I get anxiety when I want more, want to be more, want to have done more. Comparing myself to historic greats feels like nailing my foot to the floor. I have yet to publish a book but F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote the Great Gatsby before he was 30. The Outsiders, one of the greatest selling young adult fiction books of all-time, was written by a 16 year old.
Oh, and Michael Phelps won 22 Olympic medals before his 30th birthday.
Let’s not talk about that, though.
There comes a point when we must accept we won’t do a lot of things. We will, however, do some things. Me? I’m a husband. I’m a father. I’m a pastor. I can do all of those things with excellence and make an impact in the world. That’s the season I’m in. When I compare myself to different people, to whom God has given different gifts, it’s easy to think I’m a zero.
Jeanne Mayo once said, “Compete and compare, and you’ll live in despair.”
So what if the another church has a pastor more talented than me? That doesn’t change how I should care for those with whom God has entrusted me.
So what if I can’t afford to take my wife Aruba, Jamaica, or any other Beach Boys destination (other than Kokomo)? That doesn’t affect how I should be the best husband I can be.
So what if my kids aren’t going to go to the nicest private school in my city, which costs a part time job per year for tuition? That won’t make me less of a dad to them.
The comparison game will only result in my sadness, my anxiety, and my doing less than what I should be doing.
I could scour Facebook and Instagram and see people with more friends, more followers, more likes, more comments, bigger homes, whiter teeth, nicer clothes, more visible ab muscles, or more expensive cars (that probably don’t have Cheerios lurking in every crevice). I could give up, tear my clothes, and scoop some more cookie dough ice cream—my sad-time food of choice. Or I could not play that game and realize that I’ve got work to do that doesn’t involve my friends’ online highlight reels. Great for them! I’m happy for them.
They’re not my competition.
No one is my competition.
Not even my former goals are my competition.
I won’t retire in the next three years. Unless they add Cookie Dough Consumption to the next games, I won’t be winning any Olympic golds soon. No parades will march in my honor. Instead, I’ll be the best husband, disciple, dad, and pastor I can be.
I don’t need to be more and do more because my identity isn’t tied into my achievements. I am not my resumé.
It’s good to set goals. I have set goals as a writer, pastor, leader, father, and husband.
When we choose not to hold on to a highlight reel of ourselves, we understand that we are mere mortals. We don’t have to be all-stars. We can be normal and still have significance. I don’t need a Pulitzer or Nobel prize to be important. I don’t even need a wikipedia page.
I’m made in the image of God, that’s significant enough.