In middle school, I wore the same oversized sweatshirt to school every day — worn out, tattered at the sleeves, but ever so comfortable. Middle-school-me slicked back my hair into a perfect half ponytail each morning. I loved a few things: writing, singing, and reading, to name a few. This girl had big ambitions. I won second place at my school’s spelling bee and dreamed of one day writing a book. Secretly, like every good-hearted twelve-year-old, I thought I could change the world. You wouldn’t have guessed it just by looking at me though — nobody ever expected much from a shy, soft-spoken sixth grader like me.
Landing a spot at the glorified “cool kids table” during lunch was every middle schooler’s dream come true. To be invited to sit shoulder to shoulder with the ones who made the rules was quite a feat. 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 shopped at Tilly’s and somehow found access to their mother’s makeup kit — often found wearing soft pink lip gloss that made their lips extra shimmery, all the boys crushed on them. It was around this time that my struggle with comparison first began. Comparison taught me that no matter what I did, I would never measure up. I could shop at Tilly’s all I wanted and wear the same soft pink lip gloss that the other girls did, but it would never be enough to gain their approval. I fell captive to the destructive lie that I wasn’t beautiful.
I learned a lot about beauty when I first became a Christian as a high school freshman. There were bible studies about beauty, books written about it, and I knew Proverbs 31:30 like the back of my hand. As a young Christian woman, I thought that being beautiful meant being the acoustic guitar-playing, Toms-wearing, worship-leading, woman of God with a heart for Africa. Every week at youth group, it seemed unfair that the girls that surrounded me were both godly and drop dead gorgeous.
I remember holding back tears one night as I hid my face under the oversized blanket that sprawled across my bed. I had just come home from youth group, and the ugly feelings of inadequacy that I tried so hard to ignore overcame me like an avalanche. That was when I realized that no matter how hard I tried, I would never be like the bubbly blonde with the dashing good looks that everybody gravitated to each week. That’s when I learned how far into this twisted game of comparison I had gotten. And today, I know that I’m not the only playing it.
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 sinful it actually is. However, comparison can be damaging for several reasons:
First, comparison can bring forth feelings of superiority that cause us to feel prideful.
In comparing ourselves to others, it is inevitable that we will feel superior in some areas that others are weak in. 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.
Additionally, 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.
Likewise, 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. Comparison is exhausting and tedious, and it always leads to some form of dissatisfaction.
But how do we overcome comparison? Everywhere we look it seems as if something is always calling out or inferiority or begging us to compare ourselves so that we may come out on top.
Instead of comparing, 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. 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.
Another way to combat comparison is to make the decision to build others up instead of tearing down. So often 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.
And along that vein, love others! Deciding not to compare all comes down to loving God and loving your proverbial neighbor. Loving God means loving the people that He has created and placed in your life. If we are aiming to love our neighbor well, then we should not compare ourselves to them and vice versa.
Making the conscious decision everyday not to compare myself has been well worth it. I am learning that the only One that I should be comparing myself to is Jesus Christ. He is the standard of godliness that we should strive for and press towards daily.