Subject: The Comparison Gap

Hello Friend,

Are you suffering from the comparison gap?

I had a good conversation with my son, Micah, on the way home from Aikido. We were talking about the personality traits we have in common, those we do not have in common, and how they might be serving us. That conversation followed an email exchange I had yesterday with my friend Henry.

Henry is a financial guru and a philosopher at heart. He is the author of the Silver Eagle Experiment Blog which provides an opportunity for the participants to share prayer requests, praise reports, and insights into the management of money and the creation of wealth. (You can see his blog HERE). Henry and I were discussing how our careers have caused certain traits or gifts to be manifest. The idea being that we have more-or-less default tendencies with which we typically operate and then another level below that which comes to the surface based on the challenges of our circumstances, or sustained environments like certain professional settings. 

When it comes to our strengths, and by strengths, I mean the abilities we possess that no one taught us, the things that come more natural to us than they do for many others, we can be inclined to become lazy. 

It is ironic how we can be in one of the worst possible places when we feel most comfortable and in one of the best places when we find ourselves completely out of our depth. 

Who wants to be uncomfortable really!? However, the comfort of our strengths can sometimes cause us to misread situations and lose our connection with reality. Micah and I were discussing how our unique personality tendencies can have a bright side and a dark side. In particular, we were discussing competitiveness and how it can trap you in a comparison gap. 

The comparison gap keeps us from growing. It keeps us from putting ourselves out there, from taking steps we should, through the fear that we will not be as good as another person. Micah was telling me that in his fencing practice he only sparred twice while everyone else sparred four times. While that instance may have been purely circumstantial, my caution to Micah was not to allow it to happen simply because he is holding back and staying on the edge. I encouraged him to move to the center of the group even if he is more comfortable on the edge. I was telling him that my career has caused me to be the person in the center of the room even though that is not my tendency. I had to learn that I really do not enjoy small talk. I am drawn to deeper discussion and we both agreed that we tend to be most comfortable in one-on-one conversations. Henry shared that his work experience caused him to develop the traits of a Ruler even though he believes he fits best as the second ranking officer.

The comparison gap hurts us in two ways. It hinders us from stepping into unfamiliar territory that would create more freedom. We get rewards for our competitiveness and for being better than other people but a competitive mindset not held in check can cause us to miss out on a richer fullness that others bring to our life. Comparison can stand in the way of our own growth because we have too great a focus on someone else’s reality and too little connection to our own. The lesser gifts of our gift mix have their purpose too. As Henry discovered, they can serve you well.

The fact is that we ARE incompetent in our untapped resources. Comparison serves its best purpose by making us aware of our incompetence. If we are not willing to face the reality of our incompetence and own it, how will we ever become competent? When we are willing to embrace that, we may discover that those with whom we compete (at least in our own heads), are the people who can help us become more competent.

As Napoleon said, 

“Never ascribe malice to that which can be explained by incompetence.”


Rick Burris

9 Palisades Way, Greenville, SC 29617, United States
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