The Thief of Joy
I recently started a photography job that includes showing and selling the finished sessions to clients. I have done better at sales than I expected; it helps that I believe in what I am selling. I rarely see my coworkers, so we use a virtual workspace platform where we can share tips and successes, ask questions and get advice, and track percentages and performance. There is one coworker in particular who has impressive sales. I have spent entirely too much time comparing myself to her, telling myself that her sales may be better but I probably have better photography, or maybe she’s just lucky; I am fighting an inner battle where sometimes she wins and sometimes I win.
It is so easy to compare. I am not sure if it is easier to compare with similar circumstances, or with totally different circumstances. Either way, comparison is a poison that seeps into your bones. It eats away at you in two ways: first, it causes you to look down on others and think “Wow, I’m glad that I am better than them.” This type of comparison exalts you above others, placing a higher value on yourself because of your accomplishments or belongings. It keeps you from serving and working effectively because you are blinded by pride and are belittling fellow image bearers of God. The second type of comparison is when you look at others and think that you’ll never be as accomplished or successful or financially blessed as them; in some capacity, or every capacity, you’ll never measure up. This type of comparison paralyzes you, keeping you from serving and working effectively because you will never be enough.
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:3-11
Comparison is sneaky. It can look like humility and showing deference to others, when that is masking fear and insecurity. Don’t put yourself on a pedestal, but don’t go the other way and think you are worth nothing. Jesus did not humble himself to the point of never healing or teaching; he humbled himself by coming to earth, by coming to our level because we could never reach his. Likewise, we should never think we are above learning and working and living with people on different levels and from different backgrounds.
Comparison steals your joy. All types of comparison focus on yourself; how others will never reach your greatness, or you will never reach theirs. It sucks your life away, constantly evaluating if you are good enough or better than others.
Comparison doesn’t take into account all the facts before making a judgement. It is so easy to compare the beginning of your path to the middle or the end of someone else’s path; but even comparing your beginnings is inaccurate because you are not anyone else. God made you unique, with unique talents and giftings and callings. Why would you waste your time and energy wishing for the talents and giftings and callings of someone else? Walk in confidence, knowing that God created you and gifted you with talents and abilities and that He is with you always.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about how there are many members in the church and among believers, just as there are many members, or part, of the human body. The feet can’t say to the hands “You don’t take us places and you aren’t like me. So you aren’t as valuable and I don’t need you.” No part of the human body can dismiss or belittle or undervalue any other part of the body, because God has designed and ordered us all.
I don’t want to be the best at my job only because my coworkers are bad at it. I want to encourage and cheer on and be happy for them when they have good days and sell well, just as I would want them to do for me. It is a waste of time and effort, not to mention it is wrong, to compare and wish others to fail so that I will look good.
Where are you experiencing comparison? You may not even recognize it for what it is. Here are some tell tale signs that you are experiencing comparison:
- Do you catch yourself explaining away the success or accomplishments of another before you can accept them?
- Are you frustrated or embarrassed when someone succeeds in an area where you are still struggling?
Take some time to search your heart for comparison.
So how do we get rid of comparison? Bring your comparison to God in prayer, confessing your sin and asking Him for help as you go forward. Remember who you are and whose you are. When you have a right view of God, you will have a right view of yourself. God is the only measuring stick you should measure yourself by. Following the example of Christ, do not view your position or accomplishments as things to be grasped. Rather, look for areas and ways where you can gladly lay those down in service of God and your fellow man.
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” – Romans 12:10-11
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8