Thousands vs. Ten Thousands

How easily we can become unsettled when we compare ourselves with others.

Saul, who was king of Israel, heard that women across his country were singing, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” How could this be? He was the king; he was supposed to get the most “likes.” He thought to himself, “They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom?” From that time forward, Saul treated David with suspicion and sought to undermine his success (1 Samuel 18:5-9).

We have all seen leaders whose egos were similarly fragile. They are dangerous, because they make irrational decisions trying to defend and prop up their own popularity. But it may be easier to see this trait in others and harder to recognize it in ourselves.

Ezra Taft Benson said, “Pride is a sin that can readily be seen in others but is rarely admitted in ourselves” (“Beware of Pride,” General Conference, April 1989). He shared the following quote from C. S. Lewis:

Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.

Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952, pp. 109–10

I don’t think all competition is wrong, but I do think that an incessant competitive mindset, constantly comparing ourselves with others, can blind us to the opportunities we each have for growth and progression.

I love the fact that Alma was able to check his envy. After expressing disappointment that he wasn’t more successful as a missionary, he rejoiced in the miraculous mission of his friends, the sons of Mosiah:

I do not joy in my own success alone, but my joy is more full because of the success of my brethren, who have been up to the land of Nephi….

Now, when I think of the success of these my brethren my soul is carried away, even to the separation of it from the body, as it were, so great is my joy.

Alma 29:14, 16

Today, I will strive to follow the example of Alma and avoid the pettiness of Saul. I will not see others’ successes as a threat. Instead, I will rejoice in their accomplishments while I pursue goals which are appropriate to my capabilities and circumstances.

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