Most days I wake up saying to myself that I’m going to try and be the best person I can be today. More often than not, I finish the day disappointed I didn’t do better. Do I set the bar high for myself? Absolutely. Do I fail on a regular basis? Absolutely.
There are times when my accumulative failures might be more discouraging than I want. Why can’t I be better? Why can’t I be the person I want to be? Why do I go through periods where I don’t even seem to put in the effort to be the person I want to be? Sometimes I think of the people I admire and wonder how they do it. There are two in particular I think of in these times. One is Cathy Crowe, a street nurse in Toronto. The other is Shane Claiborne, an activist, author, and street pastor in Philadelphia. Both of them seem to wake up every day and live amazing other-centered lives. They seem so focused and disciplined.
The truth is, I shouldn’t be comparing myself to them. I’m not them.
I don’t have their skills, their gifts, or their background. And I have not experienced all they have. My life shouldn’t be compared to theirs. Not by me, anyway.
My assessment of my life should be based on who I am.
I have a lot to offer. We all do. We need to have faith in ourselves. We need to trust that who we are is of great value. That we have something to offer. Regardless of what others have to offer.
It’s strange that though I know all this to be true, I still find myself comparing my shortcomings to the lives of those I admire. I don’t know Cathy Crowe or Shane Claiborne personally, but I imagine they have their own struggles. Their own sense of failures to deal with.
It’s also strange that this concept of comparing myself to others doesn’t seem to enter my world of sports. I’ve long played hockey and golf. In both of these sports I don’t worry about comparing myself to other players. I’m a perfectionist. I work hard at trying to be the best hockey player and golfer I can be, even at sixty-two. I play golf with the same foursome week in and week out. I don’t worry about their scores. I worry about improving my score. I’m happy when my buddies play well, even if they happen to have a better round than I did that day. I need to bring this same approach to my every day desire to be a better person.
What does being a better version of ourselves even mean?
For me, it means living an other-centered life. One where my focus is on others, not me. Others includes my family, my friends, my community, and the world I live in.
I understand the need for self-care and the importance of spiritual and physical care in total health. My quest for being the best version of myself is not about being in great physical shape or developing spiritual practices for reasons other than being a better person. My main driver for wanting to be a better person is because it’s what I believe God calls me to, calls us all to.
Even if I put aside my desire to respond to God’s call to love others, we still all have an innate desire to contribute to making the world a better place. You don’t have to believe in God to want to make the world a better place. There’s plenty of evidence out there of people who care about our world yet don’t believe in God. I might happen to believe that they’re inspired by God even if they may not see it that way. Bottom line: I accept that we’re all in this together, that we should all respect each other and work on making things better for all.
I do all sorts of things in my life that aren’t necessarily other-centered. Like playing golf or hockey, photography, writing, and watching Netflix with my wife. But ultimately, I hope these things allow me to recharge and be healthy so that I can be a contributing member of society.
Being a better version of ourselves means being a holistically healthy person who tries to make the world a better place. There are so many injustices in our world, so many causes to contribute to. I have a better chance at being a better person if I don’t compare myself to others, but focus on what I can do to play my part in caring for others, regardless of how small my part might be.
I’ll work on being a better me. You work on being a better you.
Together, we’ll make a better world.