Comparison is a deadly trap, and those who live by it are sure to surrender their identities to a false dream, even false success. Comparison accomplishes nothing. It is not a healthy sort of competition as some might lead us to believe.
I believe in competitive motivation, for sure! However, when that motivation causes us to relinquish the passion and love we once had for our art, something is not right. If you are an artist, maybe you understand how painful this journey can be. One moment, you’re on top of the world because you think the piece you just created or the song you just wrote is the most brilliant thing you’ve ever done. The next, you’re checking Instagram and see a colleague who was just featured on your favorite creative blog, and your world crumbles…even if only momentarily.
I have worked so hard to get myself out of this horrible cycle. Recently, I experienced a jolt of confidence, fully believing the truth that I am capable of accomplishing what it is that God has called me to do because He has created me for specific tasks. I was chatting with my friend Mandy about this topic over the last couple of days. I’m happy to not be the only one who struggles with this. Artists are recognized because of their uniqueness, but far too often, in effort to be recognized, they end up succumbing to pressures to be something they are not. If it’s not caving to the pressure, we analyze other artists that are more successful and feel that, since we are not where they are, we are somehow failing. This is also not true.
I am a week away from beginning a new adventure in Nashville. I know this is a very important thing to keep in check as an artist who will soon be surrounded by far more talented and well-established ones.
As I was reading today in 2 Corinthians, I came across an interesting passage. In verse 12, Paul is speaking about those who boast in certain things they’ve been asked to do. I don’t know if these are ministry duties, or things that deal with certain giftings, but he writes, “when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.”
The Greek word actually has a root meaning used to describe unity. When we compare ourselves to each other, whether it be in ministry or in creative community, rather than supporting one another, we are actually dismembering the goal. I know in some scenarios, that’s very clear to see. However, I hadn’t ever thought about it as an artist. I do see us as a big family. I may not know all of these people in the family, but we are one: a bunch of odd, somewhat disorganized, emotional people. I like that we get each other. But when I compare my art with someone else’s, all I do is create a wall of separation and start to believe a lie that we don’t belong in community. I start to think that I have to be better, rather than learn from what they do well and support them in it. Or, I just become self-defeating and I stop creating my art completely. That may be a worse outcome, and one I have fallen victim to more than once.
This also plays into our focus. Sometimes, as artists, we feel as if we have to do all of these external things to help promote our art, or to support our art, or just supplement it. We end up spreading ourselves too thin and lose sight of the goal, which was the art, itself. Paul continues in verse 13 of chapter 10, “but we will not boast beyond our limits, but will boast only in with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us.”
To me, that’s saying, don’t dabble in things that aren’t what God called you to do! Not all good opportunities are good for us, right? What is it that you are good at? What do you want to do? Keep that at the forefront of your mind and rejoice in it. Don’t go beyond your limits of influence. If you love painting abstract portraits, and you’re good at it, keep painting abstract portraits, not feeling guilty that you aren’t painting more landscapes. God has given me certain songs to write, and they may not be a certain genre, but I like writing them, and people have told me I’m good at writing them. So instead of being upset that I can’t write like so-and-so, I just need to keep doing what I do, and rejoice in doing it.
When I opened up my Bible app just a moment ago, I found the verse of the day to be quite perfect for what God has been talking to me about today:
The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. – Proverbs 29:25
Comparison, the fear of man, is a deadly trap. But setting our sights on the Lord, trusting in His unique call on our lives, in His creativity and the opportunities He places before us, it will always go well.
Artist: be free to be you.
A few artists who indirectly inspired this blog today: