It’s subtle. It’s covert. It sneaks in without you even realizing it got in, like the spider you never saw until you wake up and it’s on your pillow. [how many of you did I just lose?]
I’m talking about comparison.
It’s hard to spot until it hits you in the face, and when it does, it hits you hard. All of a sudden, without any warning, you can be confronted with the harsh reality that you compare yourself to others a lot more than you think. Also really quickly, let me add that comparison isn’t unique to girls – guys do it too, probably more than we think. It manifests itself in a million ways, but the ones I relate to most are ones like these:
They’ve been to cooler places than I have.
They have fancier technology.
They’re less afraid of making phone calls or doing grown-up stuff.
They have more money.
They’re more generous with that money.
They’ve served Jesus more than I have or longer than I have.
They haven’t messed up as bad as I have.
They’re growing faster than I do.
They’re nicer than me.
They seek God more than me.
I usually try to write with a sliver of grace, but in this instance, I’m righteously angry. I’m angry because I’ve seen the effects of comparison in my own life and in the lives of people around me. Comparison is a lot of things, including the thief of joy, and the spawn of jealousy (and it’s effective.)
Comparison can make you look at your life with regret and lament, thinking that you’re not half the person you should be, or you haven’t done enough with your life. It makes you think that you’re not special enough and that everyone except you [and it is always that extreme, curious, isn’t it?] has something going on while you don’t.
Isn’t it funny how social media can make the lives of others seem glamorous? I’m not trying to dog Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, but while for some, these pictures we capture are moments of joy that we want to solidify and refer back to, for others, they can become a stumbling block. Again, I’m not getting on anyone for doing it, and if you’re reading this, I’m not necessarily saying that you shouldn’t share about your joy. In fact, back in January, I wrote about how useful I felt these sorts of things were for trying to find joy in the joy of others and being happy for the things that others have been able to do.
The difference between those two things is a heart condition: gratefulness. Comparison is, at its core, a personal problem. But it’s not a personal problem as obvious as addiction, lust, etc. It’s one thing if someone has a vice that they refuse to deal with, but comparison [at least often times] is extremely subtle deception, and yes, I’m talking about from Satan. He uses comparison to make you think you’re worth less and you’re less lovable, and when you think about it, it’s terribly absurd. He’ll use someone’s vacation photos to make you think that you’re boring and have nothing to offer in terms of experience. He’ll use someone’s job and financial wherewithal to make you think that you’re a bum and you’re lazy and irresponsible with your money [side note: maybe you are. But usually bums aren’t concerned with the fact that they’re a bum. They’re too busy enjoying spending what money they have on themselves and playing video games.] He’ll use someone’s physical fitness to make you believe that in a moment when a loved one needed protection, you’d be unable to come through for them.
So how do we combat this? The trouble with comparison is that often times, Satan’s lies are really well-spinned and seem incredibly true. I alluded to this earlier but I got way too fired up and off-track, so I’ll say it again: gratefulness.
I read a book once by a man named Dudley Hall [his spiritual heritage has since passed down to me, he’s my spiritual great-grandfather, if you’re into spiritual lineages.] One of his chapters dealt with a real man being grateful for his story. That has stuck with me since 2008 (I think) when I read it. It seems to come back to me every single year.
It can sound a little bit sentimental, but it’s really about contentment. When it comes down to it, everyone is unique. No two people have been at the exact same place for the exact same time for their entire lives (unless you’re a Siamese twin.) So in reality, it’s a disservice to everyone else around you to discount yourself for your experiences or your resources, when in some cases, they’re out of your control. I’ll exemplify myself here (until I become a pastor and can use anecdotes of other people, like blogging pastors do…)
I went through a two-or-three-or-maybe-longer week spell when I hated my job. I was so discontent because I was looking at how much (or how little) money I was making. I started looking for other jobs, and I stopped caring about mine. Why? Because my girlfriend is at a job that affords her a lot of opportunity and keeps her well financially. Comparison stole my joy. The job I once celebrated for being so fun and enjoyable despite (maybe even because of) late nights and early mornings became the job I cursed because I didn’t earn as much as she did.
Then the Holy Spirit, in the midst of my job hunt, told me to get “stuck in.” (It’s a phrase that football pundits use to imply a hard work rate, putting your head down, getting yourself established in the game.) He told me to start practicing all of the new brewing methods we were using that previously, I had despised. He told me to always find something to do instead of using every second I had free to complain with my co-workers or play Football Manager on my phone.
He told me that instead of lamenting how little money I made, to start setting aside a portion of my tips every day so that they’d add up and, when phone bills, insurance, etc. came around, I had money at the ready and I didn’t have to wait on a paycheck that was scarcely enough.
So I did.
Before long, I was working 6 days a week, earning good money and working good shifts. I had almost $200 set aside within the course of 10 days, enough to let me wait to cash my paychecks until I needed them more. My savings account has grown by about 33% in two weeks. I’m having fun at my job, meeting more people, developing more friendships.
I believe that the answer is that I got stuck in and started giving thanks for my job instead of lamenting it. I began to realize that, while I didn’t have the financial resources to do all the things I wanted to do (buy Erica nice things [or at least go on dates,] get out of debt, save money, etc.) I had the desire to do those things, and God has instilled in me the character. Let me try to explain or articulate that better…For example, I desperately desire to be a provider for my family one day. I want to have a wife who doesn’t have to work, at least not at a job she doesn’t like. So the question of “will you use your resources to provide for your family?” has been all but settled. The only thing that remains is the thing that God is responsible for (alongside my obedience to apply) – getting me into a job that will afford me money to provide for a family.
But for now, God has given me a job and resources to steward, and that’s my job right now. In fact, I’m almost convinced that God wants me to try my hand at getting out of what debt I have at my current job, even though it feels like a steep, steep uphill battle.
Comparison is the thief of joy. It’s a spawn and cesspool of jealousy. It breeds feelings of worthlessness. It does nobody any good. So let’s let it die, let’s enjoy our stories and our circumstances as well as we can. Let’s trust a loving Father – God – who always takes care of the needs of His kids.