- Jen Wise
How many times has this happened to you? You’re clicking along through Facebook, minding your own business, and suddenly a foul, foul mood bubbles up within you, seemingly out of nowhere. Within just a few more clicks you’re entire outlook has changed.
No, you haven’t seen anything offensive. No, no one has been picking on you. And no, you haven’t seen evidence of evil, societal woes or cultural degradation. What you have seen is fantastic: pictures of well-dressed couples out to dinner, colleagues conquering new heights of professional success, and friends connecting and gushing over one another. You’ve seen a world of perfect people with perfect outfits and perfect children and perfect, exciting lives.
Boy, have you been cheated! Your kids never behave. Your house is always messy (and not to mention, way too small). You can’t even remember the last time you went out for a night on the town. And don’t even get me started on your job… maybe if you weren’t so pathetic you could have exciting opportunities too. Geez. You sure got the short end of the stick.
What’s Wrong With This Picture?
It is remarkable how quickly our outlook changes when we fall into the comparison trap. Reality gets distorted and suddenly your fulfilling job doesn’t measure up, the home you’ve made isn’t quite right and your abundance isn’t enough anymore. When faced with others’ blessings and successes we begin spiraling into jealousy, insecurity and discontentment.
It doesn’t matter that we love our friends. It doesn’t matter that we should be, and almost are, happy for them. In their success we see our failure. In their abundance we see our lacking. In their ability we see our inadequacy.
It is so difficult to not be jealous and insecure when we get snippets of successes paraded across our computer screens every day. But it’s not just social media that tempts us to compare. The neighbor’s yard that is always perfect, the friend who never has a hair out of place, the colleague who is seemingly handed opportunities… There is an opportunity for a pity party at almost every turn.
You cannot, and should not, ignore the blessings and goodness in others’ lives. You cannot, and should not, close yourself off from anyone who can ‘best’ you in a given area. So how can you escape the comparison trap?
Here are five simple habits that are transforming my relationship with myself, with others, and with God as I move from comparing to celebrating.
- Remember that no one’s life is perfect. Steven Furtick recently tweeted, “One reason we struggle with insecurity: we’re comparing our behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.” We are all too aware of the mundane moments of our lives. We are even more aware of our struggles. Keep in mind that everyone, EVERYONE, has mundane moments. Everyone has imperfections.
- Don’t revel in those imperfections. There is a difference between remembering that no one is perfect and secretly celebrating others’ imperfections. We often look for something we ‘do’ better or ‘have’ better in order to feel secure. Be on the alert if you find yourself thinking, “he might have a big job and fancy car, but his marriage is a sham” or “Her house is always so beautiful, but I bet they’re drowning in debt!” Your security rests in Christ alone, not in how you measure up to your peers. Rest in his grace that overcomes your own imperfections and refuse to rejoice in the struggles of those around you.
- Celebrate what you’ve got. You do enjoy meaningful times with friends and family. You do have an impact and experience professional success. You do, on occasion, look put-together and fantastic. You’re just not seeing these moments strung together in highlight-reel form. Recognize the blessings in your life and celebrate them. Thank God for them. This is the key to prying the tentacles of discontentment from your life.
- Celebrate. Don’t brag. Enough said.
- Celebrate the blessings in others’ lives. The antidote to bitterness and jealousy is celebration. Celebrate the good you see in others’ lives. Did a co-worker just escape to a phenomenal conference last weekend? This is not a sign of the dismal quality of your own life; this is an opportunity to rejoice in a restorative weekend for someone else. Did your friend’s business just expand, again? This is not a sign of your incompetence; this is an opportunity to rejoice in another’s ability and hard work. Let your heart be transformed by celebrating the good, the special and the beautiful in others’ lives.