When was the last time you compared yourself to someone else? Be honest—it was pretty recent, wasn’t it? For me, it was just yesterday. In this social media age the tendency seems to be getting worse. But the comparison game serves no useful purpose. It can make us forget that the most important thing is knowing that all is well with our eternal soul. And comparison can even be a huge hindrance to joy, productivity, and healing during our time here on earth.
Wanting Someone Else’s Life
Comparing our possessions and experiences to what we see others have and do on Facebook and Instagram can steal our joy. Someone else’s new car or trip to the Bahamas may look grand, but it is never the whole picture of their lives. Your last picnic at the local park with your family may have been filled with more laughter and love than your friend’s month-long trip to Europe. And remember that driving an old beater car means you have no car payment each month.
Money doesn’t buy happiness, and it certainly doesn’t ensure joy. Focus on the blessings God has given you and the pure joy of knowing Him. Then say a prayer for your traveling friend that they might know joy too.
Wanting Someone Else’s Talents and Abilities
Sometimes when I hear others in our church sing, I am tempted to lament my lack of a beautiful singing voice. I love listening to music, but I’m not gifted in making it. Still I resist the temptation, praising God for the joy of hearing others extol Him in song instead of being jealous. I remember the talents and abilities God has given me, making sure I use them productively to His glory.
My oldest sister often mentions how she didn’t get the writing gene that I got. She is amazed at the poetry I write. But then I remind her that she has a talent I do not. She can take a piece of furniture that is nearly ready for the trash heap and transform it into a treasure. If I tried to do that, I’d just get it one step closer to the heap and waste a lot of paint in the process.
We all have a unique set of talents, but focusing on someone else’s instead of our own steals our productivity for God’s Kingdom. If we all had the same gifts and abilities, life would be boring and so much would go undone. Thank God for your talents and for the talents of others, and maybe find a way you can work together to be even more productive.
Comparing Our Trials and Hardships
We all suffer trials in this world; Jesus warned us that we would. He came that we might overcome our hardships through His grace and be a light to others still fumbling in the dark.
But sometimes when we hear another’s terrible tale of woe, we discount our own. We keep our stories of hurt and healing to ourselves. It just isn’t as bad as what someone else has endured.
I’ve succumbed to this kind of comparison recently. I joined the launch team for Mary DeMuth’s new book titled #WeToo.* I also joined a closed Facebook group called Sexual Assault Survivors. On the Facebook pages for both groups I’ve read stories of horrendous abuse. These heartbreaking stories often involve abuse that began at the age of five or six and that continued for years.
It’s tempting to think that my own experiences of being sexually assaulted as a teenager aren’t as bad as these stories. Therefore, I have no right to complain or to still be struggling with the healing process 40 years later. But trials and hardships, stories of abuse and pain, are no place for comparison. My story is no worse or better than anyone else’s. It’s just different. To compare my story to one that is “worse” impedes healing—mine and the person who will be able to relate to my story.
Instead of comparing, I should—no I must—allow my experience to grow empathy within me. I must share my painful healing journey so that God can use it to help others. If I keep it to myself because I believe my story isn’t “bad enough” then perhaps I delay the healing of another who needed to hear it.
Whether what we compare in our lives is good or bad, the act of comparing serves no purpose. When the workers who came first in Jesus’s parable of the workers in the vineyard grumbled because they compared what they got to what those who came last got, Jesus rebuked such comparison. His conclusion? “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16 NIV).
The next time you are tempted to compare, resist the temptation so that you might not lose your joy, your productivity, or your source of healing. Remember that the most important thing is that it is well with your soul.
*Check out this great resource about how the Church can and should respond to sexual abuse and sexual assault. If you pre-order #WeToo before Aug 12, you can get 5 free resources here: http://www.wetoo.org/preorder.
I can so relate to comparing my problems with someone else’s and thinking that I shouldn’t be having so much trouble because so-and-so is going through worse. I like the point you make about the variety of people’s talents, too.
Thanks. Hope this helps us both remember not to play the comparison game.