On Comparison

Comparing myself to others is nothing new. I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember. It’s a pretty natural thing to do, isn’t it? It’s nothing new, but as of lately, comparison has felt more present than ever before.

I would dare to assume that all of us have struggled with comparison at some point in our lives. We compare our performance. We compare our relationships. We compare our appearance. The list goes on and on.

I know deep down that comparison isn’t life-giving. Like you’ve probably heard before, “comparison is the thief of joy.” As cliché as the saying is, I know deep down that it’s true. Even though I know comparison is useless, I’ve never felt the need to try to avoid it. Up until recently, I thought that comparison only steals joy from the person that does the comparing; however, the truth is that it affects everyone around them as well.

If you know me, you probably know that I love clothes. I’m always looking at others around me for inspiration. I realized recently that when I see someone I know wearing a cute outfit, my first instinct isn’t to compliment them; rather, my first instinct is to be envious. Rather than telling the person how much I love her outfit and allowing her to feel good about herself, I sit there wondering why my outfit doesn’t look that good. This may seem trivial, but taking on this attitude causes me to be bitter inside and to miss out on having a positive interaction with someone that I admire and value.

Comparison in relationships is a recipe for heartache and frustration. No matter if the relationship is with a friend, a family member or a significant other, the result is always the same. Relationships are a huge part of who we are. They’re intimate and complex and ever-evolving. No two relationships are the same, yet we expect them to be. I’ve found myself comparing my friendship with a person to their friendship with another person. My instinct is to think, if we both share a relationship with this person, shouldn’t it look the same?

Due to graduating from college six months ago and the fact that I’ve spent most of my summers at Young Life camps, most of my deep relationships at the moment are long distance. Something about maintaining relationships at a distance causes you to spend more time evaluating the relationship, rather than just appreciating the other person. It’s easy to think things like, “well those best friends Facetime every day, so if we’re not doing that, does that mean we’re not as close?” Once we start comparing, our expectations shift. Suddenly we think that our relationships should look a certain way since that’s how someone else’s looks, and then we become disappointed.

Not only do we compare the good parts of our lives, we also compare the messy parts. I’ve been going through something difficult the past few days, and I find myself comparing my hardship to others’ hardships. I think things like “well at least this other thing didn’t happen to me,” or even, “well my situation is more difficult than theirs because of x, y and z.” Rather than letting myself truly feel my emotions, I’m wasting time trying to justify them even though no one is asking me to.

I think the reason that we compare ourselves so often is because we want to make sure we’re doing things the right way. We don’t want to make our own decisions, so we act according to those around us, finding affirmation in modeling our lives after what seems to work for others.

Scripture doesn’t ask us to measure our lives in comparison to someone else’s, but it does tell us to become like Jesus. If we want to know how to live our lives, we have a perfect example in Jesus. And he doesn’t ask us to figure it out on our own. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” (John 15:9) If we seek Jesus first, we become more like Him. By abiding in Him, we experience more joy, love, and wholeness than we could ever imagine on our own.