Back in the Boardroom, Sugar, Brady and Littner are giving the aspiring Apprentices a masterclass. Teaching them the hardnosed, ruthlessness of surviving in business. In previous weeks, David dared to point out problems and faced the pointy finger. Tom led from within and was lucky not to go out. And Frank was fired simply for being himself. All good attributes but being loved by your neighbour, it isn’t.
In the gentler atmosphere of the Bake Off Tent, the desire to win is just as determined – and Hollywood and Leith can be just as brutal. Ruby’s opponents almost saved the collapsing showstopper and everyone comforted the distraught Manon. And don’t you just want to take Rahul home with you!
It all makes for good television – and, of course, we only see what the producers want us to. But what do these programmes say about comparing ourselves with others? Do we see our lives as always waiting for a Sugar-coated finger or a Hollywood handshake?
As humans, comparing ourselves with others is one of our least helpful attributes. Applied negatively more often than not, doing so exacerbates feelings of stress, inadequacy and failure – especially when it all gets too much. “If only… I was as good as him, had her friends, their house, job, money, health, faith…”
All that time and effort. Wishing we were like someone else. Only to miss out on being the person we are.
Oscar Wilde said: ‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.’ Sounds simple, but how does that work in the complex reality of our lives?
Well, there is a clue in something Jesus said: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ (Mark 12:31)
Now, most of us probably feel comfortable with the ‘love your neighbour’ bit… thinking of others, being kind to people… “Yep, I can do that. That bit’s OK.”
All the same, it is difficult to love those we don’t like or don’t get on with. We often have a choice about the friends we keep or don’t keep, albeit street neighbours or work colleagues can present challenges, for example. But, pretty much, the act of loving our neighbour (wherever they are) can be fairly straightforward and comparatively easy.
But what about, ‘as yourself’?
To love ourselves in the same way as we love others.
Umm… tricky that.
Many of us focus on our failings. The bad bits. The mistakes. The wrong words. The difficult memories. The hurts. The things we messed up. The times when the finger pointed.
There are good things in all of us, though. It may be hard to focus on them, but they’re there. The things we got right. The successes (they don’t have to be showstoppers). The compliments we receive (even if we struggle to actually believe them). What we’re good at. What we like about ourselves.
Loving ourselves requires having a balanced view of who we are. Having a balanced view enables us to see what God, in his love and grace, has made good within us. The ways in which God not only shakes our hand but also embraces and holds us.
All the same, what if you still feel you’re not exactly a Star Baker?
God’s love isn’t based on success and achievement. You don’t have to prove anything. Hired or fired, God loves you no less than anyone else. Complete with all the good bits and all the bad bits.
Thing is, it’s easier to accept that’s true for other people, isn’t it? It’s that comparison thing again. “Me. God loves me? I mean, what about this… don’t forget that… oh, and there’s these other reasons too, Lord…”
We’re probably all apprentices in some respects.
So ‘In this week’s task…’, have a think about these questions:
• What makes you you (and not just the person you want others to see)?
• What do you love about yourself?
God’s got a treat lined up for you. And you don’t even need to go back to the Boardroom to get it.