I have struggled for many years with comparing myself to other people. I’ve wanted to be thinner and would envy friends with a high metabolism that stayed naturally slim. Then I entered a time in my life when I was envious of people who had more resources than I did and could afford cuter clothes and better house decor.
Comparisons are such an illusion on so many levels. How many times do we look at another couple and think to ourselves, “they look so happy”, and wonder if our relationship is as good as theirs? I have a tendency to think that other people seemingly have it all together: moms with well manicured nails and hair, dressed in the current styles, and teaching their kids advanced math at home while cooking delicious-looking Nutella desserts that are all the rage on Pinterest. It doesn’t just end on outer appearances. I have often compared myself to people who seem to be more faithful than I am, who are more generous with their income, or who “serve” the community in big way. Comparisons do one thing- they make me feel like I never measure up to the “standard”.
But, what is the standard? Is there a standard? I don’t think so. The more authentic friendships I have the more I realize that almost every friend I have struggles with this same issue. They feel tired and pulled in a hundred directions, never knowing whether to focus their time on work, their husband, their kids, a little quiet time and reflection, or getting that work out in.
As I am growing in my trust in God I am realizing just how crippling comparing myself to others really is. I am unique to others in many ways- my past experiences, the gifts I have been created to have, and my current circumstances all affect and shape who I am today.
Comparisons do not harbor feelings of joy, concern, and honor- rather feelings of disappointment, envy, and inadequacy.
As I have pondered this topic this morning, I believe comparing ourselves to others does three icky things to our relationships.
1. Destroys unity with others
The first is comparisons destroy unity with our friends. When we are busy comparing ourselves, we are trying to decide if we measure up, or we are feeling better than someone else who we think doesn’t measure up with us! How sad. We are not focusing on rejoicing over one another, building each other up, and focusing on loving one another with grace and truth. We are focusing on illusions rather than reality. We are missing out on real conversations that open up vulnerability about the areas we lack and encouragement from each other because we are focusing on how “good” we are, or trying to measure up.
2. Replaces gratitude with discontentment
When we compare ourselves to others, we often stop thanking God for what He has given us and start wishing we could have more. Or, we start gloating over what we have and think we earned it because we are better than others. This really stops us thanking God for the work he does in us. We miss out on the peace and joy given through being grateful for what we are blessed with and realizing that it is a gift.
3. Gives us an unclear focus
Without unity with others and gratitude, we have an unclear focus. We can easily begin to believe the lie that we are in charge of our lives and by our own will can have more and get more. Our focus on LOVE shifts to our focus on SELF improvement (which never ends). Our purpose to love others and show them our faith through obedient joy shifts to trying to control and maintain our lives, leaving us confused and feeling a lack of purpose and fulfillment.
I am grateful that God is revealing to me that He is doing great things through me even as I am still a mess. I am happy that he can use this mess of a person. My icky heart is being renewed with truth daily, and I am grateful because it does not come from me! Being free of worrying about measuring up around other people has helped me tremendously to focus on what is truly important. This is something that I daily need to remind myself of!