DEATH BY COMPARISON
Written by Jessica Ponder on August 1, 2013
Pinterest and the Art of Comparison
If you’ve never used Pintrest, then you’re missing out on an endless buffet of impossible craft ideas, home repair porn, and cheesy quotes. Pinterest does have the occasional gem, to be sure. Take this quote I saw the other day: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It was more than a little ironic to read that on a website that’s the leading cause of people (especially ladies) comparing themselves to others!
Still, it’s a great quote. And it resonates with me deeply. My whole life I have played the game of comparison. It plagues most women. My friend Paige told me once that whenever a beautiful woman walks into a room, everyone notices. A man notices and is forced with the choice of whether or not to check her out, but a woman notices and is presented with the choice of whether or not she will endlessly compare herself to that woman. Perhaps they are tempted to think: Why can’t I have hair like her? How did she get her stomach so flat? I wish I were tall, like she is… [Insert whatever else she has that you want].
Death by Comparison
But it’s not just looks, I am tempted to compare everything.
Why can’t I make cookies like that she can? If only we could afford a slightly bigger house like those people. Why can’t I get pregnant as fast as she can? Why does she seem to make friends easily when I am so awkward? Why does their family get along better than mine? Why am I not as encouraging as she is? Why is she a better teacher than I am? Why is she a more gracious mother?
That type of life is a prison! It’s death by comparison.
I’m unable to live my life freely and be content because I am always measuring myself against everyone else. It never ends well. If I think I’m better than them at whatever I’m comparing, I inevitably fall into pride. And if I have less of something than another person I’m comparing myself to, then I’m prone to fall into despair, depression, or bitterness. It’s not pretty, but it’s the truth.
Unhelpful “Solutions” to the Problem
Often people try to remedy this problem by saying, “Stop comparing yourself to others, because you are great the way you are!” “You are unique and amazing.” It’s like they use pride to treat despair, only to trade one sin for another. Thanks, but no thanks.
Now, of course I do believe that God created each of us, and that gives us incredible value. But we have worth because we are made in his image, not because of anything we do or possess. That’s why their advice stops miserably short. It misses the mark in a major way. You see, comparison is not just the thief of joy because it keeps from being content or because it makes me jealous. No, comparison is the thief of joy because it is the sin of pride or narcissism.
Think about it: if you compare everyone to yourself, you are the measuring stick. You are the center. In short—you see everyone in relation to you. It’s all about you. You can’t possibly appreciate someone else’s talents and gifts because you are too busy worrying about whether or not you measure up to them. That’s your problem. That’s my problem. We keep looking at ourselves.
Constantly placing myself at the center of my world is the thief of my joy. It’s my own fault, and recognizing this is where healing and forgiveness can begin. I know the world doesn’t revolve around me. Even my own life is not about me. God is the center of it all. He is what gives life true purpose. He is the one that created me uniquely and you uniquely, but he didn’t make us to live life comparing ourselves to others. He created diverse people so that we thank him for the beauty and wisdom of his design.
Confessions of a Chronic “Comparer”
I’ve been a prideful, narcissistic chronic comparer for far too long (26 years and counting) to fix this problem overnight. I still screw up, and I badly need God’s gracious forgiveness. Truth be told, if you know me, I’ve probably compared myself to you at some point in our relationship. In that moment, I forfeited the opportunity to admire and enjoy the strengths and talents that God has given you. I gave up the opportunity to see how you uniquely display aspects of Christ’s work in your life. Instead of being thankful for who God has made you, I was too consumed in my comparison game. Forgive me. I’m sorry.
So now, when I’m tempted to compare myself to others or find myself feeling insecure, I’ve started praying that God would help me to be thankful for the strengths of that individual. I’m glad that I have many beautiful friends. Their beauty points to the One who makes all things beautiful. I’m thankful I have friends who take lovely photos, paint great paintings, tend bountiful gardens, sew wonderful things, write wonderful stories, play beautiful songs—all of these acts of creation honor God.
I’m glad that others are more experienced mothers than I am. They are more patient, and in that patience they point to Jesus. It is a challenge to me in the best way.
I’m glad others are better cooks that I am for all the same reasons. (Plus, I get to eat their food and enjoy their hospitality!) I wouldn’t be able to really appreciate any of these things if I was comparing myself to them incessantly.
Even in the few short months of this process more joy has come from admiring others than comparing myself to them. I’ve been pointed to Christ and encouraged by the way he has created each person for his glory. I’m not perfect. I still am prone to making myself the measuring stick, but I’m praying that God changes my heart and opens my eyes to the beauty and strengths of others. Through the gospel and the power of his Spirit, he can change your heart too.
Jessica Ponder is a wife and mother to one (so far). She loves reading, singing, baking, and urban walking. In her dreams she is a piano player with time to practice, a gardener whose plants don’t die, and someone who could hang out with the entire world at the same time, all the time.