Motivated By Rank

Studies are proving we’re not really driven by the idea that “money buys happiness.” Somehow I think we all knew that as we connected the dots and came to the reality that more money didn’t really give us true happiness.

So what does motivate us to buy more, spend more, flaunt more.

It turns out it’s even darker than we originally thought. A new study shows that we’re really not that concerned with whether we make $50,000 or $150,000 as long as we make more than our friends, colleagues and people we went to college with. It’s not the money we’re really after, it’ status.

According to THIS ARTICLE the higher we rank above the people in our circles the greater the sense of happiness and self-worth we tend to have.

The higher a person ranked within his age group or neighborhood, the more status he had and the happier he was regardless of how much he made in dollars (or, in the study’s case, pounds). “What we’re trying to do is understand and explain why, over 30 to 40 years, the large economic growth we have experienced hasn’t made us any happier,” says Boyce. “If absolute income matters, as we increased our income, everybody should get happier at a national level, but we don’t seem to. So what we are showing is that in terms of life satisfaction, rank is a better predictor than absolute wealth.”

In our blinded desire to to beat the person next door we have absolutely secured the reality that enough will never be enough.

We’ll always find someone…

living in a bigger house

driving a newer car

obtaining a larger bonus

I think in some ways I’ve fooled myself into thinking I’m doing “really good” because money doesn’t matter to me. However, the truth is I’ve still given “rank” too much importance in my life.

At some point I’ve got to decide. When is enough, enough?

At some point I’ve got to come to grips with the fact that my identity is not based on what I earn, what I have, or where I rank.

At some point I have to realize this game is doing immense damage to my ultimate goal of Christ being formed in me.

Anyone else struggle with this?

55 Responses to “Motivated By Rank”

  1. I’ve definately felt that. I’m perfectly happy in my life. But my little brother just got hired for a new job and its a huge jump. Suddenly, I feel a twinge of jealousy in my mind, when I should just be happy for the guy.

  2. Michael says:

    I’ve been there too. I am excited for what God is doing in my life, but sometimes I think, “I’d love to be in that spot.”

    Kinda like what Matt just said.
    .-= Michael´s last blog ..My Son Got A Letter From Batman =-.

  3. We are taught from an early age to want BIGGER, BETTER, NEWER, FASTER…

    As long as we stay away from doing the ranking and comparing ourselves, we can keep our heart in a good place. People are always going to rank and compare… If Don’t believe me, wait until the next issue of the Outreach Magazine’s Fastest Growing Churches comes out!

    Grow and Go, just keep your heart right to show!
    .-= Scott Williams´s last blog ..Stop Hatin’ On Other Pastors & Ministries! =-.

  4. Niki says:

    Being raised in a non-Christian family I find I am definitely more likely to compare my relationship with Christ “status” to others relationships with Christ before I compare my actual monetary wealth.

    However I believe that brings more pain and confusion than happiness mostly. Which in turn I am sure affects my monetary wealth.

  5. Been there and done that. For me, it seems to be a comparison among “the cousins” who have accomplished certain status symbols in life and work. I have to constantly remind myself what is important when the family is together. Sad, but true.
    .-= Randy Kinnick´s last blog ..Be Careful What You Love =-.

  6. Jeff says:

    Money is considered a measuring stick for success. People who want to feel their efforts are successful typically look to money as how well they’ve been able to apply their talent.

    At the same time rank isn’t a bad thing as it can drive us to better things if our ego isn’t involved. Being a better person is the same concept as rank.

    A person might want to be better at praying because they see how happy another Christian is because they have a solid prayer life allowing them to be closer to God. In this case the desire to be closer to God drives them to pray more.

    • Pete Wilson says:

      True but there is a fine line there. Rank would always suggest that your desire is to be better than the other person (whether prayer, money, etc). The true desire would need to be wanting to draw closer to God not beat out the other person.

      I think I know what you’re saying though.

  7. Jim F. says:

    I was caught in this trap and then things got stripped away and all I had to cling to was Jesus. I liked having the stuff but I love Jesus.
    .-= Jim F.´s last blog ..Soaring =-.

  8. Aaron says:

    Just a thought, but I wonder if many of us obsess about rank when it comes to wealth and job status because it is “easier” to change where we rank in these areas than in other areas that affect our happiness. It’s hard work to improve my devotion to God or improve my relationships with my family. That requires me to do some deep soul searching and face some ugly truths about me, no one else. My progress in these areas can’t be attributed to outside forces as easily as the pursuit of wealth can – “My boss just doesn’t like me” or “It’s just a bad economy.”

    Plus, I feel like we’re instructed much more from a young age on how to go about getting ahead financially and career-wise than in our spiritual walk or personal relationships. If you want to make more money and gain status, you get this education or work more hours, etc. But what are the steps to achieving this other path to happiness? Why aren’t those drilled into us as frequently or moreso as how to obtain money?

  9. Tina Dee says:

    auck! I even do this in my Christian walk. Last night in Bible study, there was something said, it wasn’t the focus of the study, but it struck me and I wrote it down, it fits with this post. Rather than ranking myself against others, Christ calls me to put others first–so opposite of what seems to come natural.
    .-= Tina Dee´s last blog ..Author DiAnn Mills & Sworn To Protect – Giveaway! =-.

  10. I struggle with this all the time! As a result I have a motto or mantra, that I put everywhere so it is constantly in my sight:

    “I am nothing without God.”
    .-= Dusty Rayburn´s last blog ..A Conversation with God =-.

  11. I do. I do. We convince ourselves we just want what is fair. But we want at least as much as someone else, usually more. It’s a vicious cycle. Thanks for giving us something to stir on.
    .-= Lindsey Nobles´s last blog ..I Wonder… =-.

  12. Sarah says:

    For sure. I swelled with pride when I became a supervisor. Here’s the thing I don’t make more than my friends. But I had a better title… least I use to think that… I’d rather have a savings account or be more established like they are. I just have a title.
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..Welcome One & All! =-.

  13. Kyle Reed says:

    Um yes definitely.
    I think inside of the blogging world it can be said that we are only as happy as our stats. Meaning if the stats grow or the followers on twitter grow then our happiness grows.

    The comparison game is dirty and never actually delivers on what you think you are trying to get at.

    • Pete Wilson says:

      Guilty! This use to consume me Kyle. I try not to look at my stats more than about once a month. Anymore than that and I can get sucked into the game.

      • patricia says:

        i feel extremely blessed that i’ve never gotten stuck with the love for stats. i realized early on that readers come and day there’ll be 400 people reading when you write about sexual abuse…then they’re all gone when you write about random “smaller” stuff.

        sometimes the blogger world is just like those tabloids…readers want the juicy stories but not the mundane.

        before i write…i ask myself… who does this glorify? if it’s something other than God then i dont write. it helps keep my motive in check.
        .-= patricia´s last blog ..3.24.10 MarchMadness. =-.

  14. Mysoul says:

    Yes, to a degree rank matters. Knowing what is important puts a stop to it. It requires a little bit of mindfulness, a dash of awareness and an understanding what I really want out of my life. I sometimes feel like I am struggling against it(not for it). Struggle against having to fall in line with ideas of how life should be as told by those who happen to be in my life.

    Its a given in life, theres always someone/something higher and someone/something lower than where we are at. With the positives and negatives my life brings, I wouldnt trade it for anything else.

  15. woody says:

    All the time Pete. Right now it’s in remission. But the cool thing about being a recovering materialist, is, you’ve got all this great stuff around you….

  16. I struggle with wanting people to know where I am and what i am doing all the time. i feel like as this generation grows its all about one up-ing one another. Even down to telling stories, there is always a better story to be told. Sometimes they aren’t even true, but i feel like teens especially face this. They have to be the biggest and the badest or else they dont have enough in their life. The life of a bully is what teens want now. I dont get it, but it is something i have had to face in the short time i have been working with teens.

  17. Dean W. says:

    Wow! You struggle with rank and inane competition.

    I certainly don’t… unless you count the incessant need to catch more fish than my buddy; or the compulsion to beat the guy (I don’t even know) in the car next to me off the line at a red light… every single time; or trying to out do the next guy as to to whom was worst before coming to Christ.

    If you are going to count that stuff, then I might struggle just a tiny bit! By a tiny bit!

  18. Not that I have conquered this personal issue, pride still attacks. But I used to desire to be the guy on stage speaking or the guy in charge. I wanted to have the high rank, I wanted to be the leader. I have had the oppertunity to be this guy, and I realize I don’t want to be “him.” It’s not me, I don’t want to be the guy everybody relies on or goes to. I don’t want to be the guy everybody lifts up. I want to do what I’m good at and invest in others personally. At this point I don’t care if I’m more successful than those around me, I just want to do what I’m good at the best I can. And that is not being the top ranking official but an aid to others to help them do the best they can.
    .-= Mason Stanley´s last blog ..Leadership: Beneficial for the long run (The 222 factor). =-.

  19. John W. says:

    Honestly, I gave up on ranking myself by wealth. I now struggle with ranking myself by something that’s proving just as detrimental to my happiness and self-worth (if not more so). I am constantly pondering why so many people are saved in “their” churches and not “our” church. While some might say this is a good thing to work over in our minds, I’m finding that it’s wearing me down. I know I’m not supposed to compare, but I can’t help it…nor can I help owning what feels like a lower rank.

  20. Billy Coffey says:

    I’ll admit I struggle with this. A lot. But I think deep down with me, it’s not as much having more as it is measuring up to my preconception of their lives. I know that’s wrong, that in fact they’re probably just as screwed up as I am. But there it is.
    .-= Billy Coffey´s last blog ..A Matter of Space =-.

  21. Brian French says:

    Wow, who knew?

    I also think we (as in “me”) also do that with our sin and compare ourselves to others and think “we’re not that bad.”

  22. Cheryl Lewis says:

    You’ve already got more replies on this post than I’ve had during the brief lifetime of my entire blog, so I can’t bring myself to respond.

    I’m just that jealous.


  23. Ronne says:

    (looks around to see if anyone notices, then raises hand sheepishly)

    Guilty as charged. I see it in me, see it in my friends, see it in our church. The original sin just keeps creeping back in – that “I can be just a bit more _______ than _______” thing that has us chasing cool (no matter what cool looks like for us). Pride, mixed with a healthy dose of fear (of being deemed ‘not memorable’) is a stumbling block for sure. Praying for you, praying for me, praying for the Bride.

  24. katdish says:

    I don’t remember where I heard this line (I think it was a movie) but it’s so very true. I think they were referring to an award of some kind. Anyway, the line was: “If you’re not enough without it, you’re never going to be enough with it.”

    And then I remember the words of Brennan Manning, where he speaks of a conversation with Jesus:

    “I have a word for you. I know your whole life story. I know every skeleton in your closet. I know every moment of sin, shame, dishonesty and degraded love that has darkened your past. Right now I know your shallow faith, your feeble prayer life, your inconsistent discipleship. And my word is this: I dare you to trust that I love you just as you are, and not as you should be. Because you’re never going to be as you should be.”

    I have peace in the knowledge that His grace is sufficient for me.
    .-= katdish´s last blog ..Faithfulness – To thine own self be true =-.

  25. patricia says:

    i used to be ALL about this. i come from an extremely wealthy political family back in the philippines. money & power was a god to us. then my grandpa was murdered because of money and i saw how the lust for money destroyed my family. they lost everything. all the riches.

    God broke me from the love of it by taking EVERYTHING away from me. there was a season where me & my son had to sleep in other’s couches coz i couldnt afford anything and at the same time, my car was broken into. it was heartbreaking.

    so i know how it feels like to have lived in a mansion…and i know how it feels like to not have anything at all.

    since then my prayer has been this:
    “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread (Jessus). otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD ? Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. (Prov30:8-9)

    though there are days that i still struggle… this prayer helps to keep my focus on Him.
    .-= patricia´s last blog ..3.24.10 MarchMadness. =-.

    • Pete Wilson says:

      Wow! Thanks or sharing Patricia.

    • ttm says:

      I’ve had a similar situation. I went from being a corporate wife who was “set” to being a single mom who is worried. Can’t sell the house. Have had trouble getting a job in this crazy economy. Yeah, it’s been very humbling.

      Almost every day I struggle with comparisons and anger. Almost every night I wake up thinking beyond “daily bread.” Thanks for your reminder to focus on the right things. Next time I wake up and my brain starts to overheat, I’ll say a little prayer for you.

    • gitz says:

      This was a great perspective, Patricia. I readily admit that ranking is only unimportant to me because everything has been taken away… and that blessed me with having to look at what I really wanted my life to be about. I had to sit down and figure out new life goals for myself, and not one of them was about relying on me instead of God. I know how that kind of goal turns out now. It was one of the biggest blessings in all of my losses.
      .-= gitz´s last blog ..Blog Peep Questions: Comment Section Style =-.

  26. Kate Brennan says:

    Your transparency blesses me…and challenges me.
    .-= Kate Brennan´s last blog ..kebrennan: #Steelers & QB Charlie Batch agree on 2-year deal – // what exactly does this mean?! – good thing #Batch rocks… =-.

  27. Matt Bowman says:

    This attitude is so engrained in us. I think it’s human nature but it’s also American culture. It’s why we mortgage our futures for the sake of homes we can’t afford & lifestyles we can’t sustain. We think it makes us look important. It’s why we check our blog stats regularly. We want to make sure we’re noticed, at least a little more than someone else.

    Andy Stanley did a great talk at Catalyst one year called “State of the Heart Leadership” where he talked about issues like this. The way you combat this kind of jealousy is celebrating those you’re tempted to be jealous of. That forces you to identify it & confront it.
    .-= Matt Bowman´s last blog ..The Prerequisite For Growth =-.

  28. Jennifer says:

    I agree with many others who have responded to the post. Whether its material & financial matters or spiritual there is always a sense of comparison. I know in my spiritual walk I often find myself getting discouraged because I don’t have the devotional or prayer life like someone else I know… I am 36 but don’t have the family life that my sisters have… and the list can go on… I remind myself every day that I am God’s Workmanship and that He doesn’t compare me to anyone else and so neither should I. Its a tough lesson to learn tho!!

  29. Outstanding post, Pete. Thanks so much for sharing it.
    .-= Tony McCollum´s last blog ..What I’m Learning about Prayer =-.

  30. Faye says:

    I’m there. I pretend I’m not, but I am. I want to be the one everyone mentions. I want my book to skyrocket to a best sellers list. I want to be called upon to speak and share.

    I want.

    God, please make my wants YOUR wants.
    .-= Faye´s last blog ..Leave those weeds alone! =-.

  31. Nichole Proctor says:

    It’s interesting that I would come accross this today. For me it’s not trying to be better than everyone else but rather feeling as though I will never measure up to the people that surround me. I’m a “new christian” and I’ve accepted christ and been baptized but am being called for more and I was struggling with my self worth. In a lot of ways ranks apply to this as well. But the truth is, no matter how many things we have or don’t have, no matter what we do or don’t do we are of the same worth in Christ. The enemy tells us we have to have more and we’re not as good as our neighbors, but it’s a lie. No where in the bible does it talk about having to posess things. All we have to have is a genuine understanding of our salvation – Christ died for us, me and you! It’s not about what we can get but rather what we can give.

  32. adam herod says:

    Great stuff as usual. For me it definitely comes out when I listen to other worship leaders or songwriters. I don’t know that I would have said I struggle with rank as much as I struggle with comparison to others. It’s so easy to compare to other people and avoid using the Holy Spirit and the light of Scripture to compare my heart and motivations and successes against. That lens is always true.
    .-= adam herod´s last blog ..seeing my weaknesses passed on =-.

  33. I struggle with it, but my area of difficulty seems to be more around relationships and marital status. I’m in my 40’s and it’s rough to see women my age bypassed as guys my age go for women 10-15 years younger.

    Ranking and comparison doesn’t seem to bring the best out in people. I mean, where do all the “one another” scriptures fit into that?
    .-= Michelle Brown´s last blog ..Beloved =-.

  34. John Morgan says:

    Thanks for sharing Pete. We love Jesus, so why is it so hard for us to just let go of ourselves? I’m very prayerful about this today – for all of us.

  35. Chelsea says:

    My problem isn’t necessarily status but defensig my job. I’m a teacher and I take pride in being a teacher. However, everytime I’m asked what I do when I explain I’m a preschool teacher I feel the need to define that I have a degree and am working on a masters. I also feel the need to explain that we don’t play all day. I have standards and assessments just like every other grade. I think I worry that people will assume I never graduated college and work at a daycare or something. So I guess that’s a status thing as well and I struggle with it too.

  36. Lisa says:

    I struggle with status all the time. Not so much money but titles. I want to have the title after my name, to show how successful I am. Whenever I need a good reminder to stay grounded with this I go see my brother. He has a job that he loves, doesn’t make much money and has no title. However, you could not meet a happier person. He doesn’t have two nickels to rub together most days but he loves his kids/family and is as happy as can be with what he has. He always reminds me of what is important in life, we all need that person to do this for us.

  37. Julie says:


    This slightly off topic, however it could be right on as well. Definitely helped to put into perspective “what is truly important?” I was shown this video today and it blew me away. Please understand my heart, I do not know this man, I’m not trying to hock his wares. I was genuinely touched and would like for others to be as well. Check it out over at

  38. Julie says:

    I haven’t read through all of the responses yet, but what comes to mind for me is the disciples. Even they wanted to be ranked in order of importance. No, it’s not right, but it happens to everyone at some point or another.

  39. Tim says:

    Pete – great discussion and think you make a great point. Rank is a great means for motivation (look at sports) – so maybe “rank” can be a good thing, but only if our sights are set properly. Imagine if we regularly ranked ourselves against Jesus? While we can never get to perfect, we can always find areas for improvement!

  40. […] Pete hit the nail on the head here. This is a must read. […]

  41. Justin Davis says:

    Here is how sick I am…Saturday was opening day of my kids baseball season. He’s never played before. As kids were practicing throwing and batting, I was trying to pick the kids out that were worse than my kid. “At least he can throw better than that wimpy arm!” “My kid isn’t a great hitter, but he can swing the bat better than those two kids.” I found a sense of relief and accomplishment in the fact that there were kids worse than my son. I have a lot of work to do in this area.

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