WHO is the best? Many people, since childhood, have focused on this question. It's so common to compare oneself to another. We want to be considered favorably by those around us. Children seek a favored view of themselves from parents, and then from friends and fellow workers. Experience indicates we are treated more favorably if others think we are first-rate.
Yes, the desire to be best can inspire one to do better than he or she might have done without that impetus. But other times the pressure to be better is too much, and people give up, deciding they shouldn't even bother trying.
Any view that is self-defeating is the opposite of what God intended. The Bible tells in the first chapter of Genesis that God made man to be like Him. This does not allow for any of us to be inferior or second-class, because God never made a mistake.
Actually, the way to find dignity and self-worth is not to try to be better than others, but to do your best. This requires being humble. When Christ Jesus was confronted with the question of personal superiority, the book of Mark quotes him as saying, ''If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all'' (9:35). Jesus taught the need for one to be humble in order to feel God's presence. Humility requires that one give up thinking that he or she is better than others. But genuine meekness doesn't have anything to do with weakness; quite the contrary, meekness involves virtue, because it demands patience in times of persecution or difficulty. Humility and meekness bring the strength to keep calm under pressure.
When people feel they are not as good as others, envy often results. But when we express the humility Jesus taught, we can feel only love. Genuine love. This promotes goodwill and genuine care for others. It causes us to recognize the good qualities in others.
An article entitled ''The Way'' by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, explains the great need of humility. It says: ''This virtue triumphs over the flesh; it is the genius of Christian Science. One can never go up, until one has gone down in his own esteem. Humility is lens and prism to the understanding of Mind-healing . . .'' (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 356). When you come to understand this, there is no need to compare yourself with, or take from, another of God's sons or daughters. Why? Because you know you have all you need in and of God.
Early in my work career, I found myself working with others who had more experience than I did. I feared I wouldn't, or couldn't, measure up. Yet I considered the fact that, similar to the way a ray of light has its source in the sun, I had my origin in God. When you think of the sun, there are an unlimited number of rays, not one of which is ''better'' than the others. Nor can one ray block the light of another ray. In the same way, one person cannot block the ability of another person to be what God created him or her to be, which is God's individual expression.
I was employed for several rewarding years in that job. It was not always easy, but when I felt troubled by comparisons with other workers, I endeavored to turn to God and ask how He would have me deal with it. In my prayer I discovered that each employee had a special contribution to make, and it became possible to see all of us working together, with the common purpose of giving the greatest good for the greatest number.
When your motive is to encourage improvement in ability, or to have fun at a sporting event, there is nothing destructive in competition. But always, since God is the origin of you and me, we depend on Him alone for our enjoyment and achievement. We ultimately can't depend on a spouse or a friend-or that person on us-for happiness. We have our inseparable relation to God, divine Love, as the basis for security.
Striving to be humble and to understand the way God has made us eliminates the pressure to prove who is best or who is greatest. It also eliminates the possibility that anyone could be inferior. Each one of us is special, the incomparable reflection of God.