How to Avoid the Comparison Trap
June 9, 2014
Janelle is a 20-year-old college student studying Sociology at Biola University. She enjoys long naps, raw conversation, and spending countless hours perusing the journal section of Barnes and Noble. She can't pick just one favorite color, so she has three: coral, periwinkle, and glitter. While many have argued that glitter doesn't count, she begs to differ. Her ultimate love language is food. Read more at janellepaule.blogspot.com.
I first got sucked into the trap of comparison in middle school.
When I entered sixth grade I didn’t think too much about how I looked. I wore the same oversized sweatshirt to school every day and slicked my hair into a perfect half ponytail each morning. I had big ambitions. I dreamed of one day writing a book. Secretly, like every good-hearted 12-year-old, I thought I could change the world.
But soon after I began middle school, I dreamed of landing a spot at the glorified “cool kids table” during lunch. Here sat prepubescent, smooth-talking boys who were convinced that the only way into a girl’s heart was to annoy them to no end. These were the girls who wore the trendiest clothes and somehow found access to their mother’s makeup kit. All the boys crushed on them.
Comparison taught me that no matter what I did, I would never measure up. I could start wearing makeup and buy the same trendy clothes the other girls had, but it would never be enough to gain their approval. I fell captive to the destructive lie that I wasn’t beautiful.
Many of us have similar experiences. We’re taught to compare ourselves to others in all sorts of ways from the time we are young. And though we may learn to deal with it better as we get older, it can be easy to get sucked back in to feeling inadequate compared with those around you.
Comparison has become so commonplace that we forget how damaging it actually is.
And comparison is not absent inside church walls. As Christians, the temptation to compare our relationships with God, ministry involvement and spiritual growth are ever-present. Comparison has become so commonplace that we forget how damaging it actually is. However, comparison can be damaging for several reasons:
1. Comparison Can Feed Pride.
Comparing ourselves to others can bring forth feelings of superiority that cause us to feel prideful. In comparing ourselves to others, we will most likely feel superior in some areas where others are weak. Proverbs 16:18 says that “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” If left unaddressed, comparison can lead to an arrogant mindset that is very difficult to break free from.
2. Comparison Can Make Us Forget Our Identity.
Seeing ourselves as less than can lead to feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. The Bible states that we are God’s workmanship, and He has equipped us for every good work (Ephesians 2:10, 2 Timothy 3:17). We were not created to feel inferior, nor should we aim to cause others to feel inferior. We must continually dwell upon the truth that each human being has inherent value because they are made in the image of God.
3. Comparison Keeps Us From Fully Experiencing Joy.
It has often been said that comparison is the thief of joy. Continually comparing ourselves to those around us robs us from joy. We can’t enjoy a good book because we’re comparing our writing skills to those of the author. We can’t enjoy going for a run because we’re beating ourselves up for not being able to run as far or as fast as our more athletic friend. Comparison is exhausting and tedious, and it always leads to some form of dissatisfaction.
Alternatives to Comparison:
1. Celebrate the Diversity and Complexity of God’s Creation.
As humans, we are multi-faceted and multi-layered. There is beauty in knowing that there is not just one mold that everyone fits into. There is one Body, but many parts, and the Spirit administers different gifts within the Body. Instead of being envious over gifts or qualities that you do not possess, learn how to appreciate God’s creativity in how He chooses to bless and gift humanity. Besides, imagine how boring things would be if everyone were the same!
If there is a quality about someone that you admire, tell them. Speak words that breathe life.
2. Build Up Instead of Tearing Down.
We underestimate the power of our words. If there is a quality about someone that you admire, tell them. Speak words that breathe life. Plant seeds of encouragement in the lives of those around you. We’re called to love our neighbors, and coveting aspects of their lives or looking down on them is not loving.
3. Remember Who You Are.
Comparing yourself to others is a hard habit to break. You’ll probably often find yourself measuring yourself up to someone else before you even realize it, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay there. When you find yourself getting trapped again by comparison, remind yourself who you are in Christ—that you are loved unconditionally, that you are a sinner Christ came to save and has made new.
Making the conscious decision everyday not to compare myself has been well worth it. I am learning that there is only one Person that I should be comparing myself to, and that is Jesus Christ. He is the standard of godliness that we should strive for and ask God to help transform us into daily.