Comparison Isn’t Always the Thief of Joy

Guest Writer: Kal-le Schrader

Theodore Roosevelt once famously said “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

I often agree with old Teddy and his thoughts about how comparison can have a negative impact on our lives. It can cause us to grumble and complain instead of sing and praise. It can cause us to ask “Why not, Lord?” instead of simply saying, “If it is your will, Lord.” 

I must also acknowledge that not all comparison is bad. Comparison can sometimes be a good thing or even something that draws us closer to God.

My earlier posts in this series have been discussing comparison and how women specifically struggle with it. To summarize: comparison began when Adam and Eve lived in the garden of Eden. Eve compared what she DID NOT HAVE with the one thing she SHOULD NOT HAVE: the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 

While we know the consequences of Eve’s self gratification and glorification, it’s also important to back up a bit and pause on another moment of comparison.

Eve’s act of comparison and interaction with the serpent contributed to the result of the falling of man. However, this isn’t the only occurence of comparison involving Adam and Eve in Genesis.

God saw that Adam was in need of a helpmate and He created Eve. Adam, seeing this new creation, began to compare Eve to himself. I imagine he also compared himself with all the animals God brought before him, but this time was different.

“Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ ” (Genesis 2:23)

Adam looked at Eve and compared her to himself. He saw that she was the same but also different. He was inspired.

In Genesis we have two different situations with two different outcomes, but both were fueled by comparison. Comparison, just like many other things the Lord has given us, can be used a tool to draw us closer to God and glorify Him.

Abigail Dodds was a guest on the Journey Women Podcast with Hunter Beless in August of 2019. Abigail spoke on the topic of comparison. (I found this episode incredibly helpful so I highly recommend checking it out) Here are two quotes that stuck with me from this interview:

“Without comparing and contrasting, we lose touch with reality. Without comparing and contrasting, we can’t properly acquaint ourselves with the world that God has made. Comparing and contrasting is how we come to learn that we aren’t God.”

“Comparison is how we acquaint ourselves not with just a law giver, but with the law itself. It shows us how we fall short. It is how we show loop that we can’t measure up to God standards. The realization that we can’t measure up is a pathway that leads to the green pastures of grace.”

Abigail is saying two things here:

 1) When we compare ourselves in a biblical way, we realize that we are not God. This world has a way of making us feel as if we are so incredibly important. We can get caught up in the sea of self affirmation and self boasting. We can easily fall into the habit of feeling as if we need more, despite the blessings overflowing from our cups. However, biblical comparison grounds us and humbles us. It reminds us that we are the created and not the creator. It affirms that we are made special because we are children of God, not because of looks, money, or status.

2) Comparison is how we see that we don’t measure up and that even though we are unworthy, we still receive God’s good grace. We are fallen. We are all sinners, unable to keep God’s perfect law. Yet, the Lord offers us grace.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION:

How do we biblically compare ourselves to others and use comparison in a positive way? 

To start, we must first ask who we are comparing ourselves to.

Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of a servant seeking God. He never once compared himself to his brothers or friends. He never said, “If only I was as good looking as Peter or as smart as John.” 

In 2 Corinthians 10:12-13, Paul discusses how some try to prove their goodness by comparing themselves with others rather than comparing themselves by the standards of God: “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you.”

By comparing ourselves to others around us, we can sometimes achieve a false sense of holiness or goodness. However, God’s standards are never failing and always relevant. We can’t wiggle our way around them or twist them until they fit how we want to live. We either meet those standards or we don’t. They are the standards that truly matter in the end. 

Jesus knew the standards given to man by God. He used God’s word to shape his life and his conduct. He didn’t model himself after anyone from this world because He knew that everyone else had failed and sinned. It’s easy to forget we are all sinners and no one is perfect except for Jesus Himself.

Jesus is the example we should first and foremost strive to be. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t look to other women here on earth as good examples. 

In Galatians 6:4-5, Paul reminds us that we should pay attention to our own work and what we accomplish instead of looking at what others are doing: “But let each one rest his own work, and then his reason to boast will be himself alone and nor his neighbor. For each will have to bead his own load.”

Paul is saying that when we do our very best, we tend to feel good.

Imagined that you baked a new pie recipe. You tried your absolute best, did all you needed to do, and it came out well! You would be happy right? I know I would be!

But what would happen if I hopped on Facebook only to see my friend from church cooked a big, delicious looking dinner for her family AND a great dessert. I would more than likely feel defeated. I would forget about the wonderful thing I had just done and instead focus on what I didn’t do.

If I’m being honest, I may also feel envious towards my friend and maybe even jealous.

Paul is telling us that we should all focus on our own work that God has set before us because we all have work to do. Whether you are a mom, a wife, a college student, a grandma, a teacher, or a retail worker- you have a specific calling of work before you.

Paul isn’t saying to look at the woman next to you and do exactly as she is doing. He’s saying that we all have our own responsibilities and we all have specific things the Lord lays before us each day. 

We must remember that more then likely our friends are also struggling with comparison. They may look at your home and family and feel like a failure. They may see the pie you baked and think they didn’t spend enough time on dessert. They too will begin to see their work as not enough or good enough. 

So instead of looking at your friend and feeling down about yourself, give her some kind words and praise! Acknowledge the hard work she did for her family. Then, pray to God and thank Him for your friend and her heart of service.

There are a few women in particular who I compare myself to in a way that I find encouraging. These women are either older and have already walked through the season of life I’m walking through or they are right there walking along with me.

I try to establish a criteria of sorts when comparing myself to other women: they must be a believer in Christ wholeheartedly striving to live out the word. As my pastor often says, “Your talk talks and your walk talks. But your walk talks louder than your talk talks.” It’s a little saying that makes me smile even as I write these words, but they are also so convicting! My pastor is saying that our actions speak louder than words. So it doesn’t matter if the woman I see online says she’s chasing after God if it is obvious she truly isn’t living that out. 

So look at your sisters in Christ and be thankful for the gifts God gave them! Maybe your friend is an excellent cook who would be willing to give you a few lessons. Maybe that other friend who has more kids than you and manages to show up to church on time can give you some helpful advice. Maybe you and your friends can simply encourage one another in your day to day life! 

Comparison can be a tool used to break down our hearts, but it can also be a tool to build us up and into something better. We are the ones who choose how and when to use it.

Dear heavenly father I come to you now in prayer just asking you once more to help us as women be at peace with who we are. Help us to look at our circumstances and what we have and be content. Lord but also know that life is hard, life is messy, and sometimes we will feel the need to compare. I pray that the next time we are tempted to look at a sister in Christ and feel jealousy towards her that we would instead be filled with thankfulness for the gifts you’ve been stowed upon her. I pray that we as women we would cherish one another and encourage one another. Lord help us to learn from one another. But ultimately I pray that we would look to Jesus first. He is the example of what we should strive to be Lord. Jesus is the perfect and blameless lamb. So I pray that we would always ask ourselves first if what we are doing is what Jesus would do the Lord and how we can not better ourselves for our own self, but to better ourselves for your glory. Please be with us as we go about this week in Jesus name we pray Amen.”