“How does she do it?” Three jobs, goes to school, leads a Bible study and a home that looks like it could be featured in Joanna Gaines’ next issue of her Magnolia Journal. “She’s probably not happy and secretly suffers from panic attacks,” we tell ourselves. And she probably does! Whoever “she” is in our life.
Often the proverbial “she” can be an actual “she.” There is one particular woman whose opinion I value too highly only because it crosses a line for me. She is beautiful inside and out, but she is also super modern and trendy. She has a heart for God and is a prolific reader; but my blog will not make it to the top of her list. Her list is one of my most compelling comparison traps. Who can compete with the Jennie Allens or Jamie Iveys or Lisa TerKeursts of the world?
One of the biggest delays with my writing has not come from the multiple life changes over the past few years, but it has come from deep down where doubt has bred from measuring myself with other “successful” authors. This scheme doesn’t stop with writing, but pops up in all types of places in my life. I’ve never been one to overly compare my physical appearance, but with growing older this type of snare has become more real for me. Comparing myself is like throwing a pity party as I rain down the confetti of all the ways I fall short.
I could never write a book like that, blog like that, and have a podcast like that. I could never be creative like that, make my own centerpiece like that, and be so Pinteresty like that. I could never have a body like that, eat healthy like that, and exercise like that. I could never be as good of a mom like that, juggle everything like that and be patient like that.
If we are honest, we each have our own separate list of temptations to compare. Like a pesky squirrel at a picnic, the temptation chatters at us persuading us to think we are never quite good enough, measure up, or could ever be like “that.” Comparison is a trap.
“…when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” 2 Corinthians 10:12, ESV
Known for writing almost half of the New Testament and for founding the movement to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to the gentiles, Paul struggled with comparison. In verse ten of 2 Corinthians chapter 10, Paul refers to how some people saw his letters as “weighty and strong.” These people thought in person Paul was, “weak and his speech contemptible.” There were others in the “good news” movement that came across quite differently possibly with more charisma and finesse. Paul faced the decision to compare himself with the others who were more appealing to the people and give into how he perceived the people saw him or move forward with the message he had and deliver it the best way he knew how.
The comparison trap is a valid one. Paul recognized it and fought being drawn into it. We can do the same.
Live with understanding. In verse 12, Paul called people who compared themselves with others as people “without understanding.” We can be with understanding and recognize the foolishness of the comparison trap. “It’s healthy to be content, but envy can eat you up,” (Proverbs, 14:30, CEV). Proverbs also tells us to “lean not on your own understanding.” (3:5, NIV). When we place our trust in God and how He views us, we position ourselves to be more aware of the dangers from being drawn into the deception and we are more likely to avoid being caught in it.
Understand we need to fight. We tend to allow ourselves over and over to get caught up in the con, because we are oblivious of the battle going on. Paul warned the Corinthians in this same part of the letter on how “we use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning,” (2 Corinthians 10:4, NLT). Arming ourselves with weapons indicates a battle. However, this type of battle takes an arsenal of divine proportion. Knowing the truth is the best weapon to begin with in this type of battle. When we arm ourselves with the truth of who God says we are, the temptation to dwell on how we see ourselves in light of others begins to diminish.
Understand our thoughts matter. In verse 5, Paul explains further how our thoughts play a role in the battle. We take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (NRSV). Try this comparison game the next time temptation comes chattering. Grab the thought like the piece of trash it is and then compare it against the Truth of Christ. Once again it is in the light of the truth which changes our perspective and allows us to step away from the trap.
We can avoid the comparison trap in three simple steps. The first step is to recognize the thought when it lands in the comparison category. Two, we imprison the thought by telling it “no” not going there and refuse it power to gain any momentum. Thirdly, we need to immediately replace the comparative thought with the truth of who God says we are because of Christ.
The Truth is because of Christ, “you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” (Colossians 1:22b, NLT) The Truth is you have Someone in your life, despite your own feelings of falling short, Who delights in you. (Psalm 18:19)
Each comparison thought we entertain is like throwing a treat to the pesky squirrel chattering and twitching its tail a few feet away. The more we feed it the more it will linger and cause more damage. Squirrels may be cute, but they are extremely destructive.
We can say no. With intentional effort and focus on the truth, we can fight the comparison trap and dispel its drain on our lives.
Dig Deeper: Isaiah 40:29; 2 Corinthians 10; Colossians 1:21-23
Meditation: God sees me without fault
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(ESV – English Standard Version, NLT – New Living Translation, NRSV – New Revised Standard Version)