Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Remember Who the Real Enemy Is

(Guest post by Russell)

I recently thought about one of the riveting closing scenes from the second Hunger Games book and movie, Catching Fire. Katniss has her bow and arrow trained on Finnick Odair and is contemplating shooting him when Finnick, sensing more than seeing Katniss, cries out, “Remember who the real enemy is.” This phrase causes Katniss to shoot out the arena sensor instead of shooting Finnick as she remembers that her real fight is with the Capitol, not with Finnick. This phrase about who the real enemy is triggered a host of thoughts regarding something I struggle with frequently, namely comparing myself to others. I want to share some thoughts about comparisons that have come to me as I have heard others speak on the topic.

I listened to a BYU devotional the other day titled, “Finding Direction in Uncertainty.” The speaker, Mary Davis, PhD, is a professor of microbiology and molecular biology. One of the things that stood out to me most about her talk was her image of what the covenant path looks like to her. Instead of a straight path that leads from point A to point B, she imagined Heaven being at the top of a mountain. There are a number of paths that can be taken to get to the top of a mountain. Some have a steep slope to get there. Others are rocky and require technical skills to ascend. Still others may have many trees in the way or may take you through a bear’s cave or bee’s nest. The takeaway for me was that there are many paths that lead back to our Father in Heaven and it does no good to compare my path to that of someone else. What may look like a smooth, gradual ascent for someone else may in fact be steep and rocky elsewhere along the way. Dr. Davis emphasized that the important thing is being on the path, not where you are. 

This reminded me of Elder Gilbert’s general conference address, “Becoming More in Christ: The Parable of the Slope,” where Elder Gilbert talks about our direction along the path being more important than where we started. I also thought about another BYU devotional titled, “Wrestling with Comparisons,” wherein J.B. Haws, a religion professor, talks about the crucible of comparison. He quotes Elder Holland who said, “[God] doesn’t measure our talents or our looks; He doesn’t measure our professions or our possessions. He cheers on every runner, calling out that the race is against sin, not against each other.” I find this counsel to be very comforting as I tend to compare myself to others in pretty much every possible way, from looks to grades to money to testimony. The fact that the race is against sin is supremely comforting to me. An old saying is, “comparison is the thief of joy,” and I have found that to be true. I also remember a saying that was in my parents’ house when I was growing up that essentially said never to compare yourself to others for it will either lead to discouragement or pride.

My wife had a great insight regarding comparisons and their frequent occurrence in our lives. There will always be comparisons, but those comparisons do not have to be competitive in nature. I can make observations about how I measure against others without propping myself up or tearing myself down with the comparisons that I make. I can observe that I am taller than another person, but that does not mean I am better. Similarly, I can observe that I run slower than someone else, but I do not need to be discouraged by that. I have developed the saying, “Don’t compare to compete,” which has been helpful for me in my journey to realize that I am fighting sin, not my fellow travelers in this mortal life. So, the next time you are tempted to aim your figurative bow and arrow at the “Finnick Odair” next to you in whatever endeavor you find yourself in, “remember who the real enemy is.” Hint: it's not the person next to you.

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