The Cross of Comparison

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You close the door to your child’s room ever so gently and creep down the stairs, careful to miss all the creaks. You make it to the couch, throw yourself down, and heavily exhale. Another successful naptime in the books, achieving some much-deserved time alone.

Silence—a moment to yourself. Time that is sought after by so many, to be still, and to be present in the presence of God. Psalm 46:10 puts it simply, “Be still and know that I am God.” Sounds simple enough. However, as much as we crave stillness, it’s the last thing we give ourselves. We begin to fill up the silence with noise; lists of things to do running through our heads, the days of the week and what activities are on the calendar, what we have in the fridge to make for dinner because we didn’t make it to the grocery store. So, to distract ourselves from the barrage of honey-do’s and daily tasks, we do the next best thing—we scroll.

One of my children recently brought home an “All About Mommy” project for Mother’s Day. There were questions that the children were asked about their mothers and their answers were written down. Questions about my favorite food, how old I was—he was slightly off on this one, bless him—what my favorite color was and so on. But one question he was asked made me stop. “How does your mommy relax?” He answered, “she looks at her phone.” My heart sank. I could stand there and come up with every excuse as to why that was his answer but the hard truth was there. And then that got me thinking—why was I scrolling in the first place?

Like many, scrolling is literally just a way to check out—a mindless pursuit to distract us from our current reality. But within that virtual context, what are we pursuing? We double-tap posts and like stories that are seemingly perfect but that leave us feeling discontent and left wanting. We begin to feel that these short-comings will be our crosses to bear, that we will always be lacking unless we can just get that one thing— then we’ll be happy. It’s a well-crafted and devious scheme that plays to our sinful natures.

Comparison, in sheep’s clothing, is nothing more than covetousness. Were we not commanded against this by God? And yet, time and time again, we fall—theologically and figuratively—into the deceitful trap laid before us. Our lives erode as we begin to lose gratitude and contentment. So, how do we fight against something that takes hold so easily?

If we continue to try to be something or someone else, we are not pursuing the something or someone God has called us to be. We are constantly stepping off the path that He has laid before us—striving toward a false sense of self. Do not become complacent in your misdirection. Step onto your path, one foot in front of the other (Psalm 119:105).

Be content. Comparison destroys the notion of gratitude and thankfulness. It takes our eyes away from what we already have and forces us to focus on what we do not—cultivating envy, jealousy, resentment, and deceit. And we all know how that turned out for Cain (Genesis 4:6-7) Comparison can breed contempt. It can make us start to despise and resent the blessings that God has already given us (Romans 1:21). Instead, we are encouraged to value others and their interests above our own.

Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. – Philippians 2:2-4

Finally, be confident in God. Comparison forces us to seek approval from others rather than seeing that we’ve already received His. The standards of men will never surpass those of God. (Galatians 1:10). And rather than seeking validation from others that leaves us feeling vulnerable and unsure, be filled with the truth of God’s purpose for you. Remember that you were fearfully and wonderfully made for such a time as this. (Psalm 139:14)

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Comparison will rob us of the gratefulness and joy that we should have for the blessings that He has already given us. We can lose sight of who God has created us to be, when we put all our focus on trying to create the happiness we see from others.

Happiness is temporary. Joy is eternal.