Comparison is a common human struggle. We look to those around us to assess whether we are ok, not ok—or really not ok. Perhaps we thought we were ok until we opened up Facebook or Instagram and saw the beautiful new addition someone put on their home, or the all-inclusive vacation they were enjoying.
Consider these common situations:
- A child delights in their drawing but crumples it up after looking at someone else’s.
- A teenager surfs social media looking for ways to improve her looks, possessions, or number of followers.
- A college student works hard but is discouraged when he learns of his peers’ academic/sports accomplishments.
- A mom listens to other moms talk about their children’s accomplishments and suddenly feels inadequate in her parenting.
- A husband attends his men’s group, but fearing rejection, he withholds his struggles at work or in his marriage.
- A homeowner works hard and is proud of what they have until opening up Better Homes and Gardens.
Maybe it was the happy family photos, or the announcement of an engagement, a pregnancy, or a child’s acceptance into a prestigious college. Suddenly, inadequacy hits, discontentment arises, or feelings of envy strike us.
How does comparison threaten to undo you?
To varying degrees, we are always evaluating other people’s behaviors and choices and comparing them to our own. The danger lies in the weight we give to these evaluations. Does it become your standard for measuring significance and meaningfulness? Does your life’s value increase or decrease when compared to that of another? If so, you are living your life before the face of man, not the face of God.
Comparison breeds lies.
- Jealousy and envy: What they have is “better.” You grow to believe that good things are given to others, but not to you. It enslaves you to covet or strive after attaining what another has.
- Discontentment: What I have is “less than.” You look to this world, and all it offers, to satisfy and bring meaning or purpose. Whether that is in wealth, or status, or relationships, you begin to believe God is withholding good from you.
- Inadequacy: Who I am is “less than.” You believe you can never measure up. You feel inadequate in your marriage, parenting, or life circumstances. Insecurity takes root.
- Lack of authenticity: You struggle to be vulnerable or transparent so no one will know your flaws. Struggles, weakness, and brokenness are seen as defects needing to be concealed.
- Short-sightedness: We forget the treasure that is waiting for us in heaven. We are citizens of another world that is far better, far more worth yearning for than the ill-considered goals of the present.
When we fall into comparison, we shift our desire to evaluate ourselves honestly to competing against other people. They either become a threat to us or a measuring stick.
God calls us to something else. He calls us to live together with differences, strengths and weaknesses, blessings and struggles, success and failure. And we are to do so in unity and with the desire to move one another towards Christ-likeness as we value others above ourselves (Phil 2:3–4). But you cannot complement someone you are competing against because they are now a rival, rather than a fellow struggler. How can we genuinely care for others if we see them this way? Ecclesiastes 4:9–10 says,
Two are better than one. …For if they fall the one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up.
Rather than competing against each other, we should come alongside and build each other up.
But how? How do we fight the pressure to compare? Here are four ways:
- Confess how easy it is to allow the things of this world to occupy and distract you from the things of the Lord. Lay down your desires, discontentment, jealousy, and inadequacy before the Lord. Cast your cares upon him and experience the freedom he offers when you are not heavy-laden with the burden of comparison.
- Healthy, godly evaluation can be good when it reorients priorities. Remember where your treasure lies. You will not find it in this life, but it will be there waiting for you and will be far better than anything you can strive for now.
- Deflect the comparison others might place upon you. There will be people who try to make comparisons with you, your choices, or your life. Rebuff any attempt to allow your life to be measured by that of another.
- Live before the face of God, not others on Facebook. Long to reflect God’s character and his ways in your life. Fix your eyes on what is unseen, not what is seen.
The more we look to what is eternal and truly meaningful, the more the things of this world grow strangely dim. Instead of living as rivals in this world, we can live as iron sharpening iron, desiring to bring out Christ-likeness in one another. Comparison dulls each of us; Christ-likeness sharpens and refines.
Once we change the posture of our hearts, we are free to evaluate choices, lifestyles, and the behavior of others in a way that will help us grow (not define or give us worth). Godly evaluation gives room for differences that complement and sharpen one another, not rank each other’s value. When value is rooted in our Creator, we are free to delight in one another’s differences and our own individuality, and we will find that our lives are more than enough.