“Comparison is the thief of joy.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt
The year I got married was an exciting season for us and for a several of our friends who got married the same year. But it was also draining. We had to participate in each other’s wedding preparations. The financial contributions to the weddings were like a merry go round; you’d contribute to my wedding and I’d contribute to yours. The money always came back. Finally, it was time to settle down in our respective homes.
When we visited each other’s houses, I couldn’t help but compare how each home looked with mine, against ours. If only we could have some of the cool stuff our friends had. Or the neighborhoods they lived in. Going back home, there would be incessant remarks about improvements that we needed to make.
Recently, we visited a mentor couple with a group of friends. They, the couple, shared their life journey and how they based their lives on 3 principles – Master, Mission, Mate, in that order. I remember the gentleman indicating that he approached his wife back then with a 10-year plan. It was her decision to make as to whether she saw herself fitting in the mission that he desired to pursue. Sitting there and listening to their commitment to their mission, I could not help but look at our different situations. Why wasn’t I asked out with a 10 or 20 year plan? Why? What were we fixated on when dating? Oh, the missed opportunities! And it made me upset. Why was I upset?
I realized later that I was vexed because certain matters were not working out in our relationship, you know the goals that you want to achieve at a particular time but haven’t? Or the things others were doing that we couldn’t? I was giving myself unnecessary pressure because I had heard of a success story elsewhere.
Is there anyone out there who can identify with me? I am sure I am in good company.
There are so many opportunities to compare ourselves with each other and especially in this digital space where the social platforms allow us to post our ‘perfect’ lives. Unfortunately, most of the comparisons are usually negative. You envy the person who has traveled to another country on holiday and think of doing whatever it takes to match up. You notice your female colleague who has bought quite a number of pretty dresses and you spend excessively on clothes just to be comparable.
It may even be the kids. How many children do they have? How do they raise them? What mode of discipline is given? Timeout? A belt? A wooden spoon? Oh they were bought a scooter! They study in an international school! You even heard two educational policies for each child.
Or maybe you look at the neighborhood your friends live in. High class. They bought an SUV, or did they add an S-Class? Every month they take a holiday to a resort, date nights are in high end hotels. Just look at their pictures posted on social media. Like, seriously, look at them. They seem happier.
You look and observe your friend’s spouse and wonder, what is this thing I’m keeping in my house and sleeping on the same bed with? And you end up laying with who you want and lying to who you actually need.
This negative comparison can result in envy or resentment because others have what you don’t have.
But why? Why do you compare yourself with others? And yet, you don’t know what the other person’s life is all about or what their luck or lack was/is? Is it because of our own inadequacies, inferiority complexes or lack of faith in ourselves or in God?
There are definitely instances where comparing yourself against another person may be beneficial. This could be when you spend time with people who inspire you to be better in life. Or where you become deliberate to learn from people you admire. Do not compare yourself against others with a negative mindset. Don’t fall into that trap.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. Philippians 2:3
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. Exodus 20.17
We seem not content with what we have, where we are. And it can really affect our family environment. Your spousal relationship may hit the rocks due to that internal pressure brought on by external factors beyond your control. Even worse, you child or children. Their overall development may be very much affected, and you can see it when they interact with their peers and relive those comparisons.
According to Joshua Becker, “comparison puts focus on the wrong person. You can control one life – yours. But when you constantly compare yourselves to others, you waste precious energy focusing on other people’s lives rather than your own.” You waste your life. You become bitter not better.
Remember President Roosevelt’s quote about comparison and know this, nothing is as powerful as a changed mind.