Many years ago, I was actively involved in the conferences of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN). During one of those conferences, I was labouring to produce the communique to be read during the closing banquet within a few hours. I couldn’t find a suitable seat and so sat uncomfortably on the steps while concentrating on my task. One very senior colleague, who owned one of the most flourishing pharmacies in Lagos, tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Mr Atueyi, you’re always writing. You’re tough. I wish I can write like you.” He was one of the richest pharmacists at that time and was highly respected.
I quickly thought of this colleague’s business and investments and professional status. But there was something in me he did not have – the ability to write – which he admired and wished he could be like me. Of course, he could never be me and I could never be him. We are unique individuals, created in God’s likeness and image but with different gifts and abilities.
It is foolishness comparing yourself with another person. 2 Corinthians 10:12-13 (NIV) says, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us…”
Our common problem is trying to compare ourselves with others. This is a serious mistake because there is no basis for such comparisons. People are different and it is not wise to compare with others. You can only compare yourself with yourself.
When you compare yourself with another person, maybe a person you consider more successful, the tendency is to put yourself down and lose your self-esteem. You will not be satisfied with whom you are and what you have. There will be no contentment. You will not enjoy what you have but desire to acquire what the other person has.
The truth is that even after acquiring that which your neighbour has, you would still not be satisfied because you would want to acquire more and more, which is greed. And greed has the spirit of jealousy and envy. That is why some people can do anything to acquire wealth.
It is not natural to have contentment. Man will continue to have uncontrolled desire for things, which is covetousness. We must have desire, which is positive or godly. But uncontrolled desire is lust which brings all sorts of problems. Paul was one person who had the secret of being content with what he had. In Philippians 4:11-12, he said, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learnt to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learnt the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
The desire to acquire things is the root cause of stealing, bribery, corruption and various crimes which are rampant in the country today. But at the end of the rat race the winners still remain rats. Towards the end of life, one must be querying the value and wisdom of the rat race. Most times, this race results in the sacrifice of good health, loss of good name and spiritual poverty. 1 Timothy 6:9 says, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lust which drown men in destruction and perdition.”
It is a blessing to have contentment. This blessing comes when you stop comparing yourself with others – your neighbours, professional colleagues, schoolmates, friends and so on. You must focus on what God has assigned to you and given you the ability to succeed at. You cannot fulfill your destiny when you wish you were someone else. You will be the best when you become yourself. Enjoy whatever God has given you and be grateful to Him. Ecclesiastes 5:19 says, “Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil – this is a gift of God.”
Honestly count your wealth and possessions (not as the world counts) and you will never wish you’re someone else.