by Robyn Ferradas
Post originally featured as a guest piece on Savannah Barr's Joyful Pine blog.
As I considered and prayed about what to contribute to Savannah’s blog, I felt God leading me to write about a topic close to my heart as a woman, a wife and mother, a teacher, and an artist: COMPARISON. It’s an area I have personally struggled with and worked through with the Lord, and an issue I see many women wrestling with alone. But we’re not alone. Paul writes, in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” In no way, have I mastered the struggle of comparison, or “arrived.” However, I’d like to say I have grown some, and I pray these words will be a sweet comfort to your soul, if you are struggling with comparison.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to compare, is “to examine the character or qualities of especially in order to discover resemblances or differences.” And there is nothing wrong with this. She has blonde hair and I have brown hair. His car is big and her car is small. My dad is taller than my mom. This is a SKILL we actually teach children in school – remember learning to use a Venn diagram? We need to know how to do this to navigate in our world. The problem occurs, however, when we begin using comparison to give VALUE. Blonde hair is BETTER THAN brown hair. His big car is NICER than her small car. My mom is WAY TOO short. Each of these comparisons gives value to something based on a measuring stick of personal opinion or worldly standards, and this assigning of value will always be flawed. Our comparison valuing is not based on absolute or concrete Truth.
But an even deeper problem occurs when we aren’t just comparing and assigning value to “things out there,” but to ourselves in relation to others. We’re reading a fashion magazine or scrolling a celebrity website and wishing we were skinnier. We’re looking on Pinterest and thinking about how terrible our house looks in comparison to images we’ve pinned. We’re watching that “perfect mom” with her kids and thinking we should be doing more. I could come up with a bundle of scenarios along these same lines, whether in “real life” or in our relationship to technology and social media. We are comparing ourselves to others and then assigning an arbitrary value, often with very little grace or kindness toward our own hearts. Have you ever played this comparison valuing game?
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and I believe he was 100% correct! When we compare ourselves to others, we lose sight of our own gifts, purpose, and calling. We stop seeing who God has made us to be. We forget about our own growth or progress or hard work, because we’ve stopped comparing self to self, and started comparing self to others. Don’t hear me wrong. I am not saying we should not want to improve. We definitely want to get better and grow! God calls us to, “Be holy, as I am holy (1 Peter 1:16),” because excellence brings glory to the Father and leads others to His heart. But at the core of the issue of comparison, is MOTIVE. Why are we comparing? Is it to grow as Christ-followers and bring glory to the Lord, or for some other reason? There are GOOD MODELS out there, and we can work to emulate them. Maybe your health is declining and a fit friend encourages you with an exercise program. Good model, and the Lord does want us to take care of our bodies. Maybe you’ve been struggling to be a patient mom, and you read a parenting book by an expert who gives you tips to improve. Good model, and the Lord does want us to parent well. Maybe you see a co-worker finding success with a particular business strategy, and you begin to implement something similar. Good model, and the Lord does want us to do our work well. It just goes back to heart motive and value placing. We can observe good models in relation to ourselves and seek to improve, without putting ourselves down in the process or developing negative thinking. This allows us to walk our own journey in the season God has us, as He has called, and with joy and genuine growth.
I read 2 Corinthians 10 yesterday, and these words leapt off the page: “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding…For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends (vv. 12,18).” THE LORD COMMENDS. So why are comparing in the first place? Might I be so bold as to say we are all ultimately looking to fill a deep need for love and approval, but are often using the wrong measure? The measuring stick for all things in life IS based on something absolute and concrete: God. Not personal opinion. Not worldly values. Not another person or thing. As Christ-followers, our measuring stick is God’s Word, and we will always measure up because we have been redeemed and covered by Christ’s work on the cross. Therefore, we should “make it our aim to please Him (2 Cor. 5:9).” We don’t need to worry about comparing ourselves to others, if we keep our eyes on the Lord, first and foremost.
Dear sisters, I know this is not easy. There are days I have felt alone and defeated in a particular area. The comparison bug bites, and I let the poison settle in my heart. I forget to pray, I don’t put on my armor, I spend little time connecting with the Lord, and I focus on how I don’t measure up…all pitfalls on the road to true victory! Yet there have also been more days lately, in which I have felt deep joy in relishing who God has made me to be, and in using my gifts to serve Him (regardless of what anyone else is doing). And I look to Him to for ultimate commendation. An amazing mentor and friend once told me, “Keep your eyes up to God, and then back on your own work bench.” So much truth in her words, right? If we can fix our eyes on Jesus and His measure of grace, and less on comparing our value to others, oh, the joy and purpose to be had! May these Truths settle in your heart today.