One of the quotes we see most often on social networking sites these days is the famous words of Theodore Roosevelt: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
I believe the reason it strikes a chord within us as individuals, women specifically, is because we have somehow learned behaviors of comparison. We play Apples to Apples. We compare our clothing with the latest on high street. We compare our cars, our Bibles, our reading lists, our education, and the list goes on and on.
We allow thoughts to enter our minds that go something like this: “I like how people like her, so maybe I should buy her shoes…” or “If I could just laugh a little prettier or buy a nicer purse, I could be like her…” and “Maybe if I just shout a little bit more, Pastor will notice me and let me sing like a solo, just like her.”
All of the above are fallacies we believe and emulate in order to be something we are not.
Comparison – “
We compare ourselves amongst each other, looking at our imperfect humanity compared to someone else’s imperfect humanity. And because we don’t live in their body, we don’t see their flaws like we see our own. How does this weigh on us and affect us spiritually? How does it reflect in our mental and physical well-being? And ultimately, what does the Bible have to say about comparison?
Let everyone be sure to do his very best, for then he will have the personal satisfaction of work done well and won’t need to compare himself with someone else” (Galatians 6:4 LB).
Isn’t it amazing that we reframe the Bible in quotes that stand out in our mind – when we had the original available all along? God’s Word tells us to do our own best – do your best work – and not to compare it with someone else’s. God has given each of us capabilities that are unique to the individual. Who are we to mess that up by comparing who we are and what we are not to others?
When we begin to compare ourselves, it weighs on us in many ways. On social media we see the weight of comparison when we see the photos of curated versions of other’s homes, clothing and family. “We know that many people on social media sites often present idealized versions of their lives, leading others to make upward social comparisons, which can lead to negative emotions (Dr. Shannon Rauch).” What we don’t see is the frustration of capturing the perfect photo, the spilled cereal in the morning or the tears and anger that accompany the people posting those photos. We are all human. Why do we compare the positives but not the negatives?
Psychologists have discovered that most people believe they are above average and better than others on almost every trait (the better-than-average effect). This belief helps us ward off painful feelings of inadequacy, but it comes at a price. When our self-esteem rests on the premise of successfully competing against others, we are always precariously teetering on the edge of losing. Social comparison and competition also foster disconnection by causing us to view others as obstacles to overcome in order to keep our position, mark our territory, and vanquish potential rivals. We ultimately feel more separate from others when the primary goal of our desire for success is to belong and to be loved (Emma Seppala, Ph.D).
Comparison destroys our will to create due to lack of perfection. Comparison destroys relationships – because ours isn’t as beautiful as our neighbors appears in photos. Comparison destroys our physical health because of the stress hormones that are released when we worry about our inferiorities. Comparison destroys our spirituality, for when we are truly in line with God, we will not compare ourselves with one another but instead we will be ultimately focused on HIM.
What do you say ladies? Should we encourage each other in our best efforts and sympathize in the imperfections? Shall we ignore the comparisons? And when we catch ourselves comparing each other, may we thank God for our own unique talents and send those other thoughts out of our head? We as Christian women are stronger than we realize and if we grasp our strength lies in Jesus, we will then have the ability to destroy the bonds of comparison and encourage beautiful things to grow in our lives. Comparison seeks to destroy the Christian community God desires most in our lives. Let’s fight back!