It’s a toxic mindset, and it develops in us even as young kids…
Sizing up the chaotic mess of paint and scribble by the kid next to us in art class, thinking: Phew, mine’s not as bad as that!
Or watching that straight-A, “always-does-everything-perfect” kid in your class impress the whole room with his science project, thinking: Why do I have to go next? That’s way better than mine!
Most weekends nowadays, with our social feeds full of other churches’ live streams, the latest Elevation service and—gulp!—our own church’s livestream with US out front… tell me these thoughts haven’t run through your head:
“Oh man, that sounds SO much better than me…”
“She sounds pretty good, but I think I sound better than that…”
“Haha, at least I don’t sound like that…”
We’ve all had these thoughts at one time or another. It’s inevitable.
Because at some level, we all struggle with insecurity. Deep down, most of us aren’t totally at peace with our own value and uniqueness, so when we observe someone else’s talents on display, we inevitably do a bit of comparison:
- Is it better than me?
- Worse than me?
- Where do I sit in relation to this?
To “compare” means to examine the qualities of something to discover resemblances or differences. Literally, the Latin parts are “com” (with, together) + “par” (equal).
And there’s nothing inherently wrong with comparison. We’re not all the same (talk about boring!), and it’s ok to notice that!
But notice how “compare” is pretty similar to the word “compete”—literally “com” (with, together) + “pet” (rival).
One is about how things are different or the same as each other, and the other is about “who’s winning”. And yes—in certain things, there are winners and losers. Competition is a part of life (and it can be very healthy!).
But in our worship leading, competition has no place.
As vocalists, when comparison turns into competition, it becomes deadly.
It’s a virus that stunts our growth, our calling, and the anointing that we can—and need to—walk in as we lead our congregations.
Comparison that’s become competition is always asking “where do I stand in relation to someone else”… and as far as God’s concerned…
That. Don’t. Matter. 😁
What matters is how we stand before God. What matters is whether He approves of how we’re using (and growing!) our talents and abilities. As Paul writes in 2 Cor. 10:18 (TPT), “To have the Lord’s approval and commendation is of greater value than bragging about oneself” (or looking down on oneself!).
See, we can only measure “winning” based on a goal or finish line, and the truth is, each of us is running a different race—so… eyes on your own race, friends!
“Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.”Gal 6:4 NLT
The standard we should evaluate ourselves against isn’t each other, it’s God’s standard.
His picture of us and our potential is unique, and it’s different than His picture of EVERYONE ELSE in the entire world.
That means that no matter how bad or good we think someone else’s voice is, it can’t lead us to think we’re BETTER—or WORSE—than them… since God is holding us accountable to our own race, not theirs.
You might say, “But my finish line seems so far… I wish my voice sounded better! It needs so much work!”
That’s ok! What we need to know is that God simultaneously loves us and sees all the places that we need improvement.
What?! Hold up. Let that sink in.
God simultaneously loves you and sees all the places that you need improvement.
And so it’s ok to not be where you want to be yet. He’s all about process—He longs to walk with you on a journey of becoming more like His perfected vision of you!
And guess what… on this journey, you’ll notice other people’s voices—and that’s GOOD! Noticing other people’s craft isn’t the problem… actually, true craftsmanship COMPELS us to notice. That’s what excellence does—it shines a spotlight back to the God who created beauty.
The Queen of Sheba, when she finally saw Solomon’s kingdom for herself, couldn’t help but praise God:
“Everything I heard in my country about your achievements and wisdom is true! I didn’t believe what was said until I arrived here and saw it with my own eyes… Praise the Lord your God, who delights in you and has placed you on the throne of Israel.”1 Kings 10:6-9 NLT
She was a queen—which means, she was accustomed to seeing beautiful things—but she was in awe of what she saw when she visited King Solomon. It wasn’t about insecurity… it wasn’t a competition of whose kingdom was better… it was a moment of inspiration where beauty and splendor prophesied to her the nature and the greatness of God.
Bottom line: there’s a RIGHT way to listen to other singers… and a WRONG way to listen to other singers!
The key is to be aware of what mindset it produces in us.
When we hear someone sing beautifully, does it inspire a love for our instrument, and for the possibilities of what God has created the human voice to be able to do? Does it motivate us to improve our own craft?
Or does it make us feel discouraged, thinking thoughts like “I could never…”, “my voice can’t…”, etc.
When we hear someone sing poorly, are we still able to appreciate their heart and effort? Or does it make us feel better about ourselves (“phew, at least I don’t sound like that”)? Or make us feel validated (“at least there are others that sound like me”)?
This quote from Bill Johnson says it perfectly…
“I can’t afford to have a thought in my head that He doesn’t think about me.”Bill Johnson
When we listen to other singers and start inflating or diminishing our own gifts based on what we see in others, that’s comparison gone wrong, and it’s destructive. It doesn’t deserve a spot in your mind because it’s not what God thinks about you.
But if we can remain confident that God LOVES our voice, He DELIGHTS in the way He made us, and He DESIRES for us to become better at our craft, then we can—and we should!—be able to listen to other voices without any sense of competition… just inspiration!
Ask questions about how they’re able to sing that way (are they using certain vocal techniques that you could benefit from? Probably!).
Notice what moves you, and ask yourself why (are they singing with dynamics? is there a certain way they’re communicating the lyrics? a certain tonal quality they’re using?).
Allow yourself to be continually inspired by others and motivated to add more tools to your vocal toolbox. Allow yourself to dream of ways that you can run your race better. God is honoured by your diligence to multiply your talents, so wherever you’re at, aim for—and expect—multiplication to happen as you invite God on the journey. Partnership with Him is ALWAYS a win!