The definition of “better” includes being more pleasing, acceptable, or of greater quality, usefulness, or suitability than something else. While it’s a good thing to be acceptable, useful and suitable – the trouble comes in trying to be better than something else. And, let’s face it, we’re typically trying to be better than someone else.
It’s a great concept in the world of business and sports, but when we attempt to surpass someone/something else with regard to pursuing our purpose in life, we wind up making judgment calls about that person. And what happens when that someone else is ourselves? Is there something wrong with trying to be better than ourselves? My debatable answer is… yes, there is a problem.
Do you realize that God does not call us to be a “better” person? I’ve searched scripture (and the internet) and can’t find it anywhere. However, there are plenty of times when he calls us to be a different person… a new person. (2 Corinthians 5:17 and Ephesians 4:22-24 are just two.)
I like how CS Lewis put it:
“God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature. Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural horse at its own game…”
When we try be more pleasing, acceptable, or of greater quality, usefulness, or suitability than what we were in the past, we are taking on a responsibility that God has not given us: judging ourselves (both in the past and now). In 1 Corinthians 4 the Apostle Paul denounces this.
Looking back on who I was ten years ago, I don’t know if I can claim to be a better person now, but I can confidently state I am a different person. Why should I attempt to prove myself against a long-irrelevant standard or compete against/surpass a past version of myself? I am not who I was – I have acquired new ways of thinking and doing things. My direction has changed – the activities I am involved in are not the same. My current decisions are made for what I am pursuing now, not then.
Each of us has a unique purpose and an inimitable way to pursue it. This quest is not a struggle to transcend ourselves, but an invitation to build upon what God has given us to do – where we are and as who we are now without comparative references.