In my last post, I established who that girl is, and why we really need to say “Goodbye” to her.
Does it seem like the practice of comparing yourself to others is so habitual, it’s impossible to keep those thoughts from bombarding you whenever you see that girl? Or whenever you see her Facebook statuses? Or whenever someone mentions her in conversation?
Let’s look at four rules that might just help us break the comparison habit:
1.)Don’t compare your beginning to that girl’s middle. This concept actually came from a blogging book* I read recently, but it’s so applicable to the comparing we women do amongst ourselves. This idea applies in many contexts, but here are a few to get you started:
If you’re a mom to an infant, please don’t compare your survival-mode-barely-get-a-shower-much-less-wash-a-dish existence with the (sometimes-somewhat)-more-organized mom of school-aged children. When she was a new mom, she was in survival mode, too.
If you’re a relatively new believer, don’t compare your “fruit” or your faith with that of someone who has walked with the Lord for years, through many joys and many trials. When she was a new believer, she often faltered, too.
If you just said “I do” a year or two ago, don’t compare your marriage to one that has weathered many storms and still remains strong. When she was a young bride, she often botched things up, too.
2.)Don’t compare your weaknesses to that girl’s strengths. Most strengths we envy in others also have related weaknesses closely associated with them. For example, let’s say you admire (and perhaps even envy?) a friend’s organizational abilities. What you don’t see is that this same “strength” can cause her to be inflexible, perfectionistic, and so task-oriented that she can ignore people altogether, even when they’re right in front of her. The truth is, she probably envies your relationships, your spontaneity, and your loving and gracious perspective.
3.)Don’t compare your invisible to that girl’s visible. How many times have you gotten impatient with your children, and later chastised yourself, thinking “I bet that girl doesn’t ever lose her temper.” Well, let’s think this one through: Did she see you lose your temper? Then maybe she’s assuming you don’t ever get impatient either.
Or maybe you have a huge argument with your husband, and later on as you’re mulling things over, you glumly tell yourself, “I bet that girl never fights with her husband.”
The truth is, we have no idea what others are experiencing behind closed doors. We’re also usually hyper-aware of our own shortcomings and weaknesses. These two facts make a lethal comparison combo that we must avoid.
4.)Don’t compare your desert to that girl’s garden. Sometimes we experience the lush fullness of blessing, rich times with God, and relative ease with no major trials. Other times we struggle with depression…anxiety…unemployment…sickness…wayward children…broken relationships…death. When you’re in the desert, don’t berate yourself for not behaving like the one who’s in the garden. There are different seasons throughout our lives; seasons which dramatically impact our relationships (including the one we have with our Savior), our attitudes, our motivation, our outlook, our health, our emotional well-being, and our faith.
So, now that you know “the rules”…
Go ahead and give me the name of the person who is in the exact stage of life you’re in, whose weaknesses and strengths are exactly what yours are, whose life you are able to observe at every moment of every day, and who is in the exact place you’re in on this journey we call “life.” You are free to compare yourself to that person.
Yes, I’m waiting. Go ahead.
Oh wait, you can’t think of anyone who fits all these criteria, can you? Of course not! Because she doesn’t exist. There is not a single person in this world that we can fairly compare ourselves to.
Maybe you’re halfway disagreeing with me, thinking about Scriptures that teach us to be an example for each other…to teach and admonish each other.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t look at others’ lives and relationships as a source of inspiration, encouragement, and example. This is an important part of spiritual growth, and is encouraged throughout Scripture.
But that’s not usually how we do it, is it? We often don’t look at others’ examples and build ourselves up in the faith, encouraging ourselves to keep going, to persevere, to pursue God more faithfully, to love Him more intensely.
Oh no, we measure each other up, measure ourselves to compare, and then beat ourselves down with the yardstick when we inevitably fall short.
I love what Ann Voskamp once said:
Pick up a yardstick to measure your life against anyone else’s and you’ve just picked up a stick and beaten up your own soul.
Measuring sticks always become weapons. Of Self-Harm.
“Know how Dad always tells the boys when they’re building something? ‘Measure twice cut once.’
Well, when you’re building a life? Measure yourself once against anyone else – and you cut twice: them and you.”
Can you see how unfair our comparison habit is? Not only to ourselves, but also to that girl?
Can we all agree to stop the comparisons already?!
Wait…how do we stop, anyway?
The rules got us started. We’ll explore the “how” more fully in the next post on comparison.
Can you think of other ways we unfairly compare ourselves to others? I would love for you to add to the four I listed! Please share your comment below.
*How to Blog for Profit (Without Selling Your Soul) by Ruth Soukup
Written by Jennifer Clarke