The Peril of Measuring Yourself Against Others

“But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” ~ 2 Corinthians 10:12 Today’s social media has sought to put us all back in high school. Many of us are being tempted to measure our self worth and spiritual usefulness by artificial standards. Twitter followers, Facebook […]

“But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.”

~ 2 Corinthians 10:12

Today’s social media has sought to put us all back in high school. Many of us are being tempted to measure our self worth and spiritual usefulness by artificial standards.

Twitter followers, Facebook friends, top blog lists, unique visits, and Klout scores are the new metrics that have replaced making the homecoming court, surviving the sports team cut, and being part of the “cool crowd.”

If you’re a Christian who is seeking to influence others with a message, let me share a few things that may encourage you:

1) Blog rankings are a poor measure of influence. On several blog ranking lists, my blog ranks in the top 10 in the Christian category. I’m surprised by this, quite frankly.

On other lists, it’s ranked in the top 100. That’s quite a gap. Each ranking system uses a different kind of tool to measure traffic. While blog rankings are important to advertisers, they’re not a good measure of spiritual influence.

The truth is that you can have a million people reading your blog every day, and that doesn’t guarantee that you’re changing anyone’s life. (Some celebrity comedians pull in those numbers. But making people laugh and changing their lives are two very different things.)

If you want to count something, count the number of people who have written you privately or told you in person, “What you wrote changed my life.” Or “what you said brought me closer to the Lord and caused me to love Him more.” Or “what you articulated motivated me to ask forgiveness from someone I have wronged.” Google analytics and BlogRank can’t measure that.

2) Your number of Twitter followers means nothing. Anyone can get between 100,000 and 200,000 Twitter followers in a few months. There’s a secret to it, however (which I’m not going to give away). So a large following on Twitter means little except that it creates the perception that a person is influential.

Here’s the reality. If you have 150 totally dedicated followers on Twitter who believe in your message and are willing to share everything you write, then you have more influence than someone who has 500,000 followers because she or he is perceived to be popular and/or because a person’s friends follow them.

Twitter counts never measure spiritual influence. Nor can they measure other things that are a far better gauge of influence (such as the number of people who have opted-in to subscribe to a person’s newsletter).

3) Your Klout score isn’t worth a toot on a tin whistle. Klout is the present rage now. It’s supposed to measure your influence. Apparently, if you have a Klout score of over 50, it means you’re pretty influential. Mine is higher than that, but so what. My Klout score and a dollar will buy me a Lotto ticket.

Before I come down too hard on this, let me thank those of you who have kindly given me “klout.” I had no idea what it was until I started getting notices that some really nice people were sharing klout with me.

However, I did a little research, and as a result, I don’t believe the number indicates much of anything. People who I regard as more influential than me have lower scores and vice versa. (One person who I deem to be far more influential than I am has a Klout score that’s only 3 points higher than mine. Go figure.)

So if your score is way below 50, don’t buy a box of chocolates to medicate your depression (because you shouldn’t be depressed).

And if your score is over 60, don’t throw your chest out because you think you’re the big dog on campus. Measuring your influence or worth by a number like that is beyond silly.

Now let me try to put all of this in perspective.

On numerous occasions, Jesus spoke to multitudes. He also spent quality time (and a lot of it) with a very small group of people . . . small enough to fill a row boat.

Who do you think He influenced the most?

And who do you think changed the world?

Answer to both questions: That little band of followers who could fill a row boat.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does (Margaret Mead).

I’ll go further.

If I had a choice between writing a book that sold over 100,000 copies or spending a few months with 25 sold-out followers of Jesus who wanted to explore more of Him, I’d choose the latter in a heartbeat.

I can say this with some level of authority because I’ve done both.

Let me tell you what’s important to me:

It’s none of the new metrics, scores, or rankings.

It’s when I’ve influenced real people by God’s grace to love and pursue the Lord more, to exhibit Jesus Christ by being more kind and gracious to those who are unkind and unfair to them and to treat others the same way they want to be treated in every circumstance, especially those people who mistreat them.

That’s the only metric I care about.

Note that those who say to you, “Your ministry changed my life” cannot be captured by stats, scores, or rankings.

(To those inclined to judge motives: Since my numbers in all of these metrics are strong, it should be obvious that I’m not crying sour grapes. I’m trying to get a point across.)

Now a word to my fellow Christian authors, speakers, and bloggers followed by a word to everyone else.

We should be thankful (and surprised) that God has chosen to use our books, spoken messages, and blog posts to reach a wide audience. And we should thank God for every email and letter we receive where people share how God has used these resources to touch their lives.

But the people I’ve really influenced the most are those who know me personally. It’s the people who I’ve sat in living rooms with, sometimes weeping with them in their pain or laughing with them in their joy.

I am well aware that many of you have never written a book or a blog post (and some of you don’t use Twitter or Facebook). Yet you are touching people – both Christians and non Christians — face-to-face with the love of Christ.

To my mind, this is what really counts.

Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted (Albert Einstein).

Social media and blogs are relatively new, mind you. God has been using fallen vessels like you and me to touch lives with His presence long before Twitter came along.

Remember: Life is short. When we stand before God, it won’t be the number of Twitter followers, Facebook friends, or blog visits we’ve garnered. Nor will it be our Klout score.

It will be real people with real faces whom God graciously chose to touch through us. Those real mortals are the gems in our Lord’s crown, our “crown and joy” as Paul put it (Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19).

Some important questions:

Imagine that you lost all your Twitter followers, blog readers, and Facebook friends overnight.

Would you still be content? (I can hear someone saying, “Yep, I have 3,000 Google+ followers! [Cough], imagine you lost them too.)

Would you feel that you still had worth?

Would you still believe that God can use you?

If you can’t say yes to all of these questions, I’d advise you to do some soul searching before the Lord. And do business with Him over this.

Whether you realize it or not, our worth is in the Lord Jesus Himself and His love for us. As Paul put it at the end of Romans 8, if God is for you, who cares who is against you?

Recently, some high profile bloggers expressed that they were having a difficult time not obsessing over these metrics – something all of us are susceptible to. They inspired this post, by the way. (Just for good measure, Google analytics is like heroine for some and AWStats is like crack.)

So if you struggle in this area, I hope you’ll find the above to be of help. If so, keep it handy for the next time you forget this post and the social metric vacuum seeks to suck you back into its vortex. We all need to be reminded about these things, including me.

Tomorrow, I’ll share something that’s related. So stay tuned.

Frank Viola Frank Viola is a popular conference speaker and the best-selling author of numerous books on the deeper Christian life, including "Revise Us Again," "From Eternity to Here," "Epic Jesus," and "Jesus Manifesto" (co-authored with Leonard Sweet). His blog, "Beyond Evangelical," is rated as one of the most popular in Christian circles today: www.frankviola.org If you wish to comment on this post, please post it directly on www.frankviola.org

More from Frank Viola or visit Frank at http://www.FrankViola.org

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