Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” While this may not be true in all situations, it was in mine.
As I recently watched a woman in an online video, I saw she is about my age and beautiful (“Oh well. That’s nice for her.”). She began to list off all the ministries she’s involved in (“That’s great.) and the wonderful job she holds (“Now I’m a bit envious.”) and she topped it off by saying she’s a mother of eight.
This is where my inner dialogue became external dialogue. “What? No way!” Although I may have said it a little stronger in my head.
My husband and daughter stare blankly then shrug their shoulders when I asked why God seems to give so many blessings and talents to some people while the rest of us receive so few. I am glad they did not get offended when I blurted this out because it could have sounded like I was saying they have few talents, which of course is not true. This was just a case of me inserting my foot into my mouth, which seems to be a regular occurrence at times.
It could have been easy to be sucked into the comparison trap:
- Why can’t I look like her?
- Why am I not as successful (or at least feel as successful) as she is?
- Why don’t I have it all together like she does?
Many people have expressed similar thoughts. Since this blog focuses on those living in a cross-cultural context, let us see how these issues may look in that context.
The Fallacies of Mr. and Ms. So and So
Some of the common things we ask as we compare ourselves to others, especially to those we work with or to others in the expat community, include:
- Why can’t I speak as well as So and So?
- Why don’t I have as many friends as So and So?
- Why don’t I have the ministry opportunities that So and So does?
- Why am I not as successful as So and So?
It appears that Mr. or Ms. So and So has it all together. But do they? Many times, people present their “ministry” similar to the way they present themselves on social media. We only see the highlights and the good side of their face. We do not see the real life struggles they are currently going through or the struggles they have gone through to get to where they are now. We also have a tough time gauging what real success is. We will look at this more in a later post.
God is God and My Identity is in Christ
Our family has been watching a sermon series on the book of Job. The thought struck me that even at after all Job went through, he never received an answer from God as to why things were the way they were. God is God and while he has an answer for what he does, he does not have to give it to us.
When I start questioning God, I tend to forget who he is, and that my identity is firmly rooted in Christ. These comparisons that I make between myself and others can be jealousy and envy, which is sin. Envy and resentfulness begin to sink their roots down into my heart and my pride helps to nurture them along. I then blame those around me for my lack of “blessings” or my lack of whatever I feel I deserve.
What to Do with the Comparison Trap
Be careful not to fall into the trap of comparing yourself with others. This can damage your personal relationships as well as ministry.
When hit with this temptation:
- Fill your mind with truth. You are in Christ. Your identity is in him. He loves you and has purposely made you uniquely able to serve him, as well as to serve
others. (Colossians 3:4, Psalm 139:13-14, Ephesians 2:10)
- Reach out to others and see how you can serve them, rather than how they can serve you and meet your needs. (Galatians 5:13, 1 Peter 1:12, Mark 10:45)
- Remember, you have victory in all things because of Christ. While you have eternal victory because of what Jesus did on the cross, you can also have victory here on earth. Realize that learning and growing is a process, and a humbling one at that. Do not grow weary of this process. (1 John 5:4, Romans 8:37, Galatians 6:9, John 16:33)
It is easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. Many times, we do not even realize it until it has become a well- engrained habit and begins to damage our relationships and even ministry. We need to focus on the truth of who we are in Christ and serve him and others in the light of that truth. It is then that we can find contentment, joy and purpose in what we do.