I have comparison on the brain.
And I know I’ll have it on my mind for at least the next month and then some (a little something to do with book marketing obligation/privilege.) But – apparently, I’m not the only one. And that’s good news. We never have to go this one alone.
One of the more wicked aspects of comparison is the sneaky way it makes people feel alone. As if they’re the only one … left out, or dressed in the wrong outfit, or staycationing, or struggling, or still single, or isolated in a tough marriage, or infertile, or parenting a kid that didn’t make the cut or losing the ever-elusive quest-to-be-fit challenge. No – we’re not alone. In fact – it’s just the opposite – we’re in the majority.
We all travel the road of comparison, every day. We compare ourselves to each other, to ideals, to magazine covers and social media posts. And, we compare ourselves to ourselves – our expectations, our hopes, our fears – even our former selves (as in – what I’d give to wear what I thought were fat-jeans in my twenties.) And we search for the exit ramp to Land of Contentment. Contentment is here. It’s just hard to see in the mass array of should/would/& could billboards placed along our path by unhealthy comparison.
Such comparison plants words like “if only” and “wish” in our thoughts. Then it firmly secures glasses on our eyes that distort the world around us as we see through lenses of life-according-to-me. The results are almost always unsettling. Envy sprouts when wish-it-was-me whispers unfair’s. Pride plants dark weeds when glad-I’m-not-them’s judges deeds. And, with all sorts of iterations in between, our minds race barely pausing for a moment to take a breath and gain perspective.
Just this week, several writers offered commentary on our relationship with comparison and contentment.
Liz Curtis Higgs pulled back the curtain on the lie that this is a lonely road – just in case we’re tempted to think I’m the only one or something’s wrong with me:
I was a member of a professional association for just two weeks when I attended their national convention. Since my name badge didn’t sport a single special ribbon, people barely glanced at me.
Alone in my hotel room, I ended each day in tears, feeling inadequate and overwhelmed. I told myself I wasn’t envious. Simply, uh … discouraged.
Years passed, and doors began to swing open. Ribbons dangled from my name badge, and people smiled in my direction.
Soon I found myself dealing with a new set of feelings. How come she’s moving ahead faster than I am, Lord? Why did they honor her instead of me? I wasn’t jealous, of course. Merely, uh … competitive.
… When I reached out to my writing and speaking sisters — women who love and serve the Lord — I discovered they, too, wrestled with this issue.
What do they manage? Click to see Liz’s insight on The Cure for Envy at Proverbs 31 Ministry
So clearly we are NOT alone. And… there IS a way out.
Ellen McCarthy, author of The Real Thing and former wedding reporter offers insight on perspective. The topic of Ellen’s article is love, but it applies to almost anything trying to steal our contentment:
One of my wisest editors at The Post, a woman who lost her husband to cancer when her twin sons were still in grade school, told me that the lyrics of the Don Henley song “For My Wedding” reflect her hope for every young person getting married:
To want what I have
To take what I’m given with grace.
It’s hard to be happy with what you have when you’re busy wishing for something different. But no one knows how much time they’ll get with their perfectly imperfect partner. So focus on loving them, just as they are.
Click to read What I learned about love during my years reporting on weddings, Washinton Post.
And, the lovely Jennifer Dukes Lee in her article on Friday, “The Thrill of an Eighth Place Finish” reminds us:
Your race is your race. Your lane is your lane. Stay in it. Press on toward the finish. Don’t let that line get fogged by the cloud of comparison, otherwise it will be hard to see where you’re headed.
Our joy in life begins at the place where our comparison drops off. It’s the place where we are content living the life we’ve been given — where we no longer have to inspect ourselves, wondering whom we are better or worse than.
Click to connect to Jennifer Dukes Lee
See? We’re all in this together. We are far from alone. There’s tons hope and joy in the midst of our regular daily life. We just need each other to help us recognize and switch out comparison’s lenses and replace them with perspective.
The moral of the story? Never go it alone. Let’s run WITH, instead of against each other.
I’m thankful to each of you for walking the road with me.