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I’ve been thinking about comparison lately. Even after I think I’ve gotten over it once and for all, it still comes back sometimes. It creeps in slowly until I realize I’ve been comparing myself (or my house, or my achievements, or my kids, or my whatever) with others.
I used to think it was social media’s fault. But, our human inclination to compare isn’t a result of 21st century technology. Long before social media and pinterest and magazines and HGTV, Teddy Roosevelt is credited with saying:
“COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY.”
The more I think about it, the more I think comparison stems from the desire to fulfill an unseen longing that we can’t quite pinpoint.
You know, that feeling like you’re missing something and can’t quite figure out what it is? “I just need to , then I’ll be happier.”
Really, comparison stems from the same root:
“I just need to (like them), then I’ll be happy.”
The truth is, there’s nothing here on planet earth you can put in that blank that will bring lasting joy.
Temporary happiness? Yes.
Long-term happiness? Yes.
But, no promotion or raise or marriage or child or dream will bring deep-down-everlasting-can’t-be-taken-away joy. Which kinda makes me wonder…
CAN WE EXPERIENCE ANY REAL JOY AT ALL?
Jesus told his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. My command is this: love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay one’s life down for one’s friends.” (John 15:9-13)
So much could be said about this passage, but let’s focus for a minute on the complete joy Jesus is talking about. I mean, he offers complete joy & tells us how to get it. That’s at least a little bit interesting, don’t you think?
Let’s break it down…
“Remain in my love by keeping my commands. I have told you this so that your joy may be complete.”
At first this sounds like bad news. “Great, if I obey all of Jesus’ commands then my joy will be complete. What are all the commands? Don’t bother reading them to me. I think there’s something about not being angry and I lost it on my kids yesterday, so fail. I’ve already failed.”
It’s almost like he read our minds. He answers the question, what are the commands? without being asked.
“My command is this: love one another as I have loved you.”
Oh okay, easier than I thought. Maybe. But wait, how have you loved me? Not really feeling the love…
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay one’s life down for one’s friends.”
He has loved us with complete selflessness. Philippians says, “Though Jesus was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead he gave us his divine privileges, he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” (Phil 2:6-8, NLT)
“Love one another as I have loved you, and your joy will be complete.”
Laying down our lives for others.
You before me.
And in some supernatural way, this type of selfless loving of others leads to complete joy in Christ.
So then, it makes sense that comparison – which is the opposite of selfless-life-laying-down-love-that-brings-joy – would bring despair and frustration, the opposites of joy.
Jesus warned, “the thief (referring to Satan) comes only to steal, kill, and destroy, but I have come that they may have life, and have it to the fullest” (John 10:10).
I wonder if Teddy Roosevelt, who knew his Bible well, connected the dots between comparison and stealing. I wonder if his quote stems from the realization that there is an enemy of our souls who “comes only to steal, kill, and destroy,” and a quick and easy way to do that is to plant little comparison seeds:
- you’re not as smart as him.
- you’re not as capable as her.
- you’re not as qualified as him.
- your house isn’t as pretty or clean as hers.
- your kids aren’t as well behaved as theirs.
- your marriage isn’t as good as theirs.
- your isn’t as as hers.
And he concluded: comparison is the thief of joy.
SO NOW WHAT?
Well, the simple answer is – stop comparing.
You’ll have to decide what that looks like in practical terms…
Some things I’ve done either in the past or ongoing are:
- Delete the facebook app from my phone
- Taken breaks from Instagram.
- Put my phone out of sight… I sometimes develop the unconscious habit of always checking my phone during a down moment during the day. (I’m sure you never do that… right?) Putting it out of sight helps me break this habit.
- Unfollow certain types of Instagram accounts – for me, it’s home decorating. When I see all the beautifully curated feeds, I start to feel discontent with our rental home and debt situation. A simple unfollow is helpful.
- Don’t use pinterest.
- Unsubscribe from magazines.
- Stop going to Target.
Any other ideas?
I’m not sure what “stop comparing” really looks like for you.
BUT I DO KNOW THAT COMPLETE JOY IS FOUND IN THE LORD, IN LOVING OTHERS AS HE’S LOVED US.
And that comparison prevents us from loving well. Say no to comparison. Get rid of the things that tempt you to compare yourself with others, and find complete satisfaction and contentment in what God says to be true of you, my friend.