Staying In Your Lane: The Spiritual Fight Against Comparison
If you've ever been to a track meet and watched any running event, you will see each runner in a specific lane. There are 8 lanes total, each wide enough for one person to run comfortably, but definitely no more than that. During a runner’s specific events, it’s important for he or she to be aware of so many variables; one of those being staying in their own lane. This is mainly because crossing over into another runner’s lane will result in disqualification and potentially cause themselves or another runner to stumble, fall, and even become seriously injury. A part of the race rarely given much thought, but if you aren’t an experienced runner, it can be really hard to do if you are not consciously paying attention to your lane.
What does this have to do with comparison, you ask?
Well I went on a run this weekend at my old high school’s track, something I’ve done numerous times before, but for some reason this time I was hyper-focused on staying in one, particular lane. Honestly, I was absolutely terrible at it. Like unless I really paid attention to the lines in front of me- I could easily veer into either lane to my left or right. Not only did I gain even more respect for people who participate in track and field competitions, but I also couldn’t help but compare my awareness of “staying in your lane” on that track to how we should approach life. My mind went immediately to the piece of scripture in Proverbs 4,
“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” - Proverbs 4:25-27
Like… wow. I know Solomon probably wasn’t referring to a track when he wrote those verses, but it is such a perfect visual to the point he is making!
If I were to have been in an actual race this weekend, with people on either side of me, I would have been disqualified SO quick if I was focusing even the slightest bit on the other runners. There’s a reason the passage says, “the race set before YOU”, not us. Because the moment I start focusing on the runners in the lanes around me, just like when we focus on people’s lives around us, stead of our own; their progress, their success, their technique- the more prone I become to wander out of my own lane.
You cannot run your own race well when you’re more focused on the people running beside you, than the race set before you.
Now let’s get away from the silly track meet analogy, how true is this in our lives?! How many times has someone else’s successes, opportunities, popularity, or relationships distracted you from your own? How many times do feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and failure originate from comparing your life to someone else’s around you? Or comparing yourself to that one girl with 550k followers on Instagram who lives half way across the world that lives a completely different life than you…? B/c guilty. I’m so guilty of all of them really. And I can tell you, no amount of comparison has ever left me feeling better about myself or my life. So why why why why why (yes all of the “whys” were necessary) do we do it so much??
Well in a way, it isn’t entirely our fault. We live in a culture that constantly compares. We have the biggest comparison trap glued to our hand every day. Not to mention we are also humans, with a competitive, comparing nature. But even with these pre-disposing conditions, we are still called to live differently. To not fall into this trap of comparison. To live set-apart.
Did you know that in the verse, Psalm 139:14, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”, “wonderfully made” translates to “set apart”? (according to my trusty ESV Bible footnotes that is) I LOVE THAT!! To me, this means that this verse doesn’t just say we are beautiful, “perfectly imperfect”, or created by God. It certainly does mean those things, but to me, I see that as saying we are fearfully set apart! Set apart by definition means created different and special, for a particular purpose.
If no two people’s races are meant to be the same, trying to run in someone else’s lane, doing what they are doing, pursuing the callings they are meant to pursue- cannot only disqualify you from the unique race meant for you, but really end up injuring you in the end.
So how do we fight against this urge to compare? Well if we breakdown Proverbs 4:25-27, it gives us a pretty simple, step-by-step plan to combat this. “Let your eyes look straight ahead”, “fix your gaze directly before you”, “give careful thought to the paths of your feet”, “stay steadfast”, “do not turn to the right or to the left”.
So if we were to make a list (b/c my Type A brain loves a good list):
1) Look straight ahead. Not behind. Not at past regrets, mistakes, or misfortunes.
2) Keep your eyes on Y-O-U-R lane. Not to the path of anyone else. **Unless it’s a mentor or elder who is speaking into your life and giving you practical advice to apply for your future. Totes different. Good godly mentors are the bomb & 10/10 recommend.
3) Be careful and thoughtful to the steps forward you take. Don’t go through life without any plans for the future, doing things for no reason OR because everyone else is doing it. Take time to think about your morals, passions and dreams, take decisive steps towards those. If something doesn’t line up with those values, don’t do it. 101 for kicking peer-pressure to the curb. You’re welcome.
4) Be steadfast. “Well what does steadfast mean Kaitlyn?”, glad you asked! Steadfast means to be firm in what you believe in; unwavering, not-changing. Basically, it just means to stick to your beliefs, convictions, and passions. How often do we compromise our beliefs to fit in with other people?? Guiltyyyyy.
5) DO NOT LOOK TO OTHER’S PATHS. Just stop. The passage says it twice in the three verses we’re referring to, so I think Jesus really wants us to get this point. He knows it only brings harm to us. Just like in a real race, turning to the side slows us down and can cause us to get out of step with our own pace and lane. Nothing good comes from it. So take steps to fight it.
Next time you feel that urge to compare coming on- wanting that body, their relationship, that house, that job, all those followers, that friend group- be more aware. The minute it comes up, pray against it. The more sensitive you are to those thoughts, the quicker you can fight them off, and the less chance they have to affect you, your decisions, and view of yourself. Unfollow people that trigger that comparison. They won’t hate you as much as you think they will, honestly, they probably won’t even notice.
So I hope the phrase “STAY IN YOUR LANE” takes a new meaning for you now. Because yes, when someone else tells you that- you can be offended, that’s always been kind of rude in my opinion. Lol Butttt say it over yourself, as a reminder. Not to shame you, but to literally put you back on track. Back in your lane. The lane that will ultimately take you to the destination God has so uniquely made just for you. Enjoy the journey.