Ladder-Life: The Rungs of Comparison

One of my many character defects has been blowing me up lately. As far as I can tell, it has been triggered by a combination of new life-circumstances, some exciting and some frustrating. I have been involved in some opportunities relating to my blog/book which is very exciting. I have also been struggling at work with an intense and challenging real estate market, and that has been frustrating. Since I spend most of my days giving large chunks of my time, energy and thoughts to these two areas, my character defect has attached itself to them primarily, but is ever so slowly leaking out and affecting the rest of my life.

I pray to God I am the only one who battles this, but from what I hear and observe around me, I am most definitely not alone in the age old game of COMPARISON. 

I have been aware of this monster for awhile. It’s usually a subtle, underlying issue for me, but recently it has been steering almost every thought and reaction I have. I even led a topic meeting in my Recovery group last week on the subject of comparing. And the final blow came yesterday when a co-worker and good friend listened to me whine a bit and eventually said, “Heather, you have GOT to stop comparing yourself to everyone. It’s going to kill you.” 

So, here I am to “reason things out” on paper. It’s not new or enlightened information. Just reminders to myself of how to do it differently and stay alert to the disease of and remedy for comparison. 

Comparison Kills Community. 

It destroys it at the most basic, macro-level of camaraderie: church, work, classrooms, social circles, etc.

When I am always evaluating whether I am better than or less than someone else, it is impossible to connect at any kind of non-threatening level. I am either the intimidator or the intimidated.

Comparing myself to others leads to a constant state of jealousy resulting in lack of celebration for the successes of others. If I am jealous, wanting what someone else has, I resent them. In a book called Courage to Change (p. 170) it says, “envy is just a hostile form of self-pity”. When I want what you have, or think I deserve it but am not getting it, it leads to ingratitude and puts a wedge between me and you. There is no chance of cultivating a healthy community when I compare. Doing so leads to “ladder-living”, where we are always above others or below. It’s an exhausting, anxious way to exist.

Comparison Kills Companionship. 

On a micro-level, comparing myself to others assures my loneliness. I isolate myself from others if I can’t handle hearing how good they have it or am afraid to share how I struggle. Having authentic relationships with my friends and families will never happen if my number one goal is image-management; preventing you from knowing the real me so I can keep up the facade of being OK.

You would think I would have learned this by now. The relationships I have with people now, versus when I was a pastor’s wife with a nicely packaged little family are 100% better than they were before. Most of that change, in my opinion, came as a result of sharing the ugly. It didn’t happen because I got more spiritual or skinny or successful. It happened because I lost my body and my hair and my church and some friends and often my mind. Then I shared it with the world. People who didn’t used to like me very much, liked me more. Friends who felt “different” from me realized I was a mess and loved me more intimately than before. 

When the subtle sin of wanting to be seen and seem better than others ruled my life, my relationships were shallow and guarded. It put a wall between me and those I loved. Comparison creates competition except in this case, if you win, you lose.

Comparison Kills Contentment.

This is perhaps the most dangerous “kill” of all. When I am constantly comparing myself, my body, my job, my writing, my kids, my spouse, my vacations, my activities, my popularity, my finances, my successes and failures, my soul cannot rest. When I compare what God has for me with what God has set in place for other people, my spirit is discontent. This discontent activates some of my other signature sins like worry, fear, pride, resentment, and control. 

There are no benefits that come from the dis-ease of Comparison.

Now, let’s talk for a minute about some solution, because I truly need the reminder. As I said earlier, this is not new information for me. It’s stuff I already know and say I believe, but in practicality, I struggle to implement. 

The remedy is obvious in many ways, but it is easy to do, easy not to do. I liken it to dieting. We all know what to eat and what not to eat (let’s not pretend we don’t know that an egg or vegetables wins out over a McDonald’s Happy Meal with a Diet Coke). The hard part is not in the knowing, it’s in the doing. It reminds me of Paul’s rant in Romans 7:  “I have the desire to do what is good but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.” Anyone relate?

I desperately don’t want to compare, but the force is strong in me! It keeps pulling at me. The absolute only way I have every found to give me relief, is to find my COMPLETENESS in God. I do this in two ways: 1) By letting what God thinks of me determine how I feel about myself, and 2) Trusting that his plan/path for me is perfect and has nothing to do with the plan/path he has designed for you. 

In order to do this, I have to regularly (and by that I mean about 70,000 times a day-because me and Paul are kind of a mess!)  remind myself that my identity comes from God alone and what he thinks of me is the only voice that matters. Not mine. Not yours. Not the made-up voice I have put in your head about me. None. Of. It. Matters. Only what the voice of truth says to me should affect my serenity. 

*And just in case you are unsure of what God thinks of you, from what I have experienced, observed around me and read in the Bible (some of you may not be in to Bible reading, but honestly, that’s the number one place you can learn of God’s love for you ), He is smitten. He adores you. And unlike regular people, He loves you even when you are rotten. He pursues you and “gets” you like no one else does. He loves you without condition or performance (good or bad) and without limits or timelines. He longs for you to love him back, not because He is a desperate Being but because He is desperate for you to embrace His affections. His guidance. His Will. His grace.

I also have to continually surrender my Will (the selfish and short-sighted desires that tend to dominate my thoughts) to God and trust that His Will always turns out best, even if it doesn’t seem so or feel good at the moment. I have to practice what I have referred to as the WITTY Principle: “What Is That To You?” In other words, what other people do and think is none of my business because God has me on a special Heather-shaped road that belongs only to me. I need to stay in my lane and out of yours if I want to be content in my spirit. Comparing the potholes or freshly paved surface of our individual roads will kill us and steal our joy.

I am feeling like the above material could really take up an entire book if one really explored all the symptoms and remedies of the plague of comparison. And we didn’t even touch on what it looks like when we compare ourselves with ourselves! But for now, let’s just agree to practice the basics above and see how God heals. 

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