The Problem of Comparison (and what to do about it)

comparison edit

I start off each new year in a miserable way. Ask my husband. He’ll confirm that I get a little bit depressed every August (just before school starts) and every January (when we flip calendars).

This trend makes no sense because I love dreaming. I love setting new goals. I love fresh starts and clean slates and color-coded charts of all my ambitious plans. But with all that comes assessment of time passed.

  • What did I do with last year’s goals and charts?
  • What didn’t get crossed off my lists?
  • How did I miss the mark?
  • How did I get distracted?
  • How many ways did I fail my family? Fail myself, my church, my community, my God?

I put a lot of pressure on myself. Can you tell? Maybe even relate?

Recently friend and author Tricia Goyer posted this on her facebook wall:

Last year we adopted 2 kids, John got a new job, we bought a house, our daughter moved to Europe, our granddaughter was born, I wrote 5 books and got contracts for 5 more, went on a road trip with 73 hrs of driving, I self-published a book, and our son, daughter-in-law and grandson moved near us. WOW! How was your year?!

Is this woman amazing or what? I’ll answer that. She’s AMAZING!

At first I was rightfully awed.

Then, too quickly, my feelings turned to guilt and jealousy. (Sorry, Tricia!) I started comparing her life to mine and — not surprisingly — I came up far short. I mean, I didn’t adopt any kids or even tangibly care for orphans. I’m not running a ministry to teen moms (which I know she does, but didn’t include in this status update). I didn’t buy a house or travel the world. I have been writing for seven years and have yet to get a publishing contract, much less work on 10 books in one year!!! SERIOUSLY. How can I possibly compete?!

I can’t. And that, my dear friends, is the point. I’m not mean to.

The Problem of Comparison

After a while of wallowing in self-defeat, I thought back on my year. I set aside what my amazing friend had done and really thought about what I had done. What had God accomplished in my life in the same frame of time? Short answer: A LOT.

In 2013 I finished writing 2 complete Bible studies, started a regular video podcast, created four websites and continue to manage three of them. I shared the stage with Patsy Clairmont and secured speaking engagements. I started an anti-trafficking human rights organization. I accepted a new job and worked through some personal trials … And those are just the biggies.

None of these are small things. My 2013 cannot compete with Tricia’s but that’s okay. We’re not meant to compete or compare, but rather rejoice in the vast ways God works in and through us.

“What God has for you no mortal being can take from you. So no need to compete or compare.” — Crawford Loritts

And what to do about it

Okay, great. We all know we’re made special and that we shouldn’t compare ourselves, but we all do it anyway. Don’t even pretend you don’t. So, what now? I have a few thoughts.

  1. Praise God for your friend’s success. This is not easy to do when feeling sorry for yourself, but life doesn’t revolve around you or me or even your friend. Life revolves around God and if He has done something great — which He perpetually does! — then He is due our praise. We shouldn’t pout and reserve praise simply because the great thing He did was in the life of someone we love rather than in our own tiny, little, personal life.
  2. Take a step back. It’s extremely difficult to be objective from close range. I needed to take a step back (and a deep breath) before I could see that Tricia wasn’t the only one who had a really great, really full year. My 2013 was amazing! It far exceeded my expectations. I cannot claim the same as Tricia or anybody else, but that cannot and should not diminish the stellar experiences and successes I had.
  3. Play fair. Too often we compare our weaknesses or failures to the strengths and successes of others. That’s not fair. If we must compare (which can be helpful in self-assessment and progress), let’s do it with an even plane.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” ― Albert Einstein

  1. Celebrate our differences. Our God is so good! He blesses each of us in different ways according to our gifts. It is futile — not to mention frustrating — to spend a life trying to be someone else.

“Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.” ― Judy Garland

My husband is disciplined, orderly, steadfast, wise and filled with discernment. I … well, I struggle to possess any of those characteristics! But I am creative, compassionate, ambitious, articulate and quick to action. Together we make a pretty good team, but imagine if our family tried to function with only one of these sets of traits.

Imagine if everyone in the world shared the same strengths and the same weaknesses. We need each other. We need one another’s strengths to balance out the gaps in our own.

TALK TO ME: How do you combat comparison and competition among friends and within the family of Christ-followers?

Talk to me!

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