Freedom from Comparison
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Comparison is the thief of joy and the stretcher of truth. Comparison says, “I am ill-equipped for the task at hand.” The truth is God has given me everything I need for the plans he has set before me. The truth of his word says that he prepared us for good works, and every good thing comes from him.—Author unknown
It began with a seemingly harmless perusal of a friend’s photo on Instagram.
What a cute picture of her and her husband, I thought.
My husband and I need to take some pictures together too.
I tapped the little heart on the screen and scrolled down.
Then there was a birth announcement, followed by another tap and more scrolling.
Next came a new house, a foodie picture, a birthday photo, a family pic and an endless supply of “perfect” images. Initially, I planned to simply post one picture and then jump right off of social media.
Unfortunately, one post turned into one hour of mindless tapping, scrolling, and comparison of my life with the picture-perfect lives of others. I had been sucked into the social media black hole again, obsessing over people and their lives instead of focusing on the life God has given me.
I think this happened to Rachel too—a woman we meet in Genesis. She found herself in a challenging polygamous relationship with her husband Jacob and her sister Leah. … Although Jacob worked seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage, when the time came to join in holy matrimony, Laban, her father, gave him Leah instead.
When Jacob discovered he married the wrong woman, he vehemently confronted Laban about his deception. Consequently, Laban agreed to give him Rachel in exchange for seven more years of labor. This created a contentious situation where Rachel was loved and valued, and Leah was not. Out of compassion for Leah, God opened her womb. However, Rachel was unable to have children. …
By examining Rachel’s comments in Genesis 30:1, we can see the toll this took on her: “When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I’ll die!’”
These are intense words, but jealousy, envy and comparison can produce intense emotions in all of us. While Rachel’s feelings were natural, normal, and even justified, her comparison struggle ultimately robbed her. … Unfortunately, jealousy and comparison caused her to spend years competing with her sister. She lost a lot of time that could have been spent enjoying the life she had been given by God.
However, Leah’s life was far from perfect. … Though blessed with children, Leah had to live knowing she was not her husband’s first choice. In that way, she experienced life in Rachel’s shadow.
When we fixate on the lives of other people, we are unable to see the pain that is often shielded from public view, hidden deep in someone’s heart. At some point in our lives, we will all walk through relational struggles, traumatic experiences, financial trouble and unbearable loss. Although it is human to look at other people and form assumptions about their lives, we must realize no life is without difficulty.
Jesus is our antidote for comparison and jealousy. Fixing our gaze on Him helps us surrender to the reality that our life does not belong to us. Our lives belong to God, and He uses both joy and sorrow to paint a beautiful picture of who He is to humanity. He is the God of both our picture-perfect moments and our most painful moments. Focusing on Him strengthens us to live the life we have been given rather than getting tangled up in the comparison trap.
Dear God, thank You for the life You have given me. As I experience both joy and pain, help me to fix my gaze on Jesus and not on the lives of others. Help me to trust and believe You are crafting a beautiful life for me that will magnify who You are. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.—Kia Stephens1
You often judge yourself on the basis of what you see in the mirror, even though you know how fickle and shallow that ever-changing image is. You tend to be equally enslaved to viewing yourself through the eyes of other people, rigorously evaluating your personal performance and almost always feeling displeased with something you’ve said or done.
“Enslaved” is an appropriate word. You are indeed a slave when you try to measure yourself through any perspective but Mine. Evaluating your worth based on how you look, to yourself or to others, is always a trap. It’s as if you are sifting sand in search of gold—looking only at the grains of sand filtering through the sieve, while ignoring the priceless nuggets that remain. The gold represents the eternal part of you: your soul. It is invisible to everyone else but Me, the One who plans to spend eternity with you. Though invisible, a well-nurtured soul can actually improve your appearance: As you rest in the certainty of My unfailing Love, your face glows with the Joy of My Presence.
My approval of you … is based entirely on My righteousness, which is yours for all eternity. When you look in a mirror, try to see yourself as you truly are—arrayed in perfect righteousness, adorned in glowing approval.—Jesus2
When you try so hard to fit a certain mold‚ whether it suits you or not or is realistic or not, you’re giving up your uniqueness. One of the many problems associated with comparing yourself with others is that you won’t be truly happy. You might feel a sense of satisfaction that you changed something you didn’t like or kept up with the latest trend, but how long do you think it’s going to last?
If it’s happiness you’re looking for‚ you’re not going to find it like that. The constant need to meet the world’s standard leads to obsession—first the physical makeover, then the molding of your personality to fit the new you, then the struggle to keep up as each trend gives way to a new one.
Save yourself a lot of time, trouble, and grief. Clear your mind of everyone else’s perception of what is attractive. Set aside everything you’ve thought or seen or been told, and ask God to show you what specific qualities or features He gave you that make you unique. Enhance those, and you’ll bring out the best, most attractive you.—Activated magazine
Comparing ourselves with others! We all do it in one form or another. We want to be better, stronger, more beautiful, more gifted. It’s part of human nature to compare and be competitive, and for some it becomes a deeply ingrained habit.
Comparing isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s necessary to observe and analyze situations or other people in order to learn or gain insight, and it’s a positive thing if it helps us count our blessings and get in a positive frame of mind. But when measuring our experiences, problems, or blessings against those of others causes us to be negative, critical, or dissatisfied, it’s a very bad thing indeed!
People compare for different reasons and to different degrees. Some people have just one “trouble area” that they struggle with, like something they don’t like about themselves. Others are chronic comparers who constantly battle with feeling that others are more talented, better looking, have more privileges, or have something else they want. Whatever the case, Jesus is able to help us overcome this negative mindset that can steal our joy and fulfillment in life.
It’s important to understand that the Lord works differently with each of us. Sometimes what’s good for one person isn’t good for another, so we can’t compare and wonder why some people seem to have it so easy, while others don’t. The Lord is fair and just and above all loving. He knows what’s best for you, and He has your best interests at heart.
We are each a necessary part of God’s magnificent, vast, overall plan. From our perspective, we can’t see how we fit in with the overall fabric of life and the balance of the universe, but someday we will see how perfect it all is. Then we’ll understand His reasons for making us the way He did, and we’ll be thankful.
He made everyone different. There’s nobody else in the world just like you or me. We are each His unique creation, He loves us, and He made us the way He did for a good reason. He’s happy with the way He made us, and we should be happy and thankful too.—Maria Fontaine
Published on Anchor August 2022. Read by Lenore Welsh.
Music by Michael Dooley.
2 Sarah Young, Jesus Lives (Thomas Nelson, 2009).