Avoiding the Comparison Trap
In a world of many options, it’s hard to resist making comparisons. Seeking similarities or determining superiority seems endless. In most cases, my analysis is fairly harmless: comparing pasta to rice, one route to another, or capris to a skirt.
However, sometimes my mental match-ups completely fail. This is often referred to as the apples to oranges comparison – meaning two things are so drastically different they cannot be compared. The phrase is obviously cliché but I believe the concept is valid.
Even if I don’t compare myself to others and base my assessment on my track record, I can still veer off course from a healthy perspective. As I aim to succeed, express my individuality or seek satisfaction, the tendency to compare can surface.
This task becomes tough in a society that muddies comparisons between air-brushed photos and our mirror’s reflections; sudden successes and the school of hard knocks; or the cheers from a crowd and the treasure of true friends.
Hello apples and oranges. The seeds of a false reality won’t bear the fruit of true achievement no matter how much we water them with our longings. Unfair or unwise comparisons ensnare us with the thought that we should be more or life should hurt less.
If I take the bait, I start evaluating relationships, resources, or my reflection based on an unrealistic (and unworthy) standard. As envy, pride, or insecurity forms my opinions, feelings of inferiority, superiority and dread seal the deal.
If you’ve fallen for the bait too, you probably know this thinking preys upon the mind and threatens relationships. As you consider how you desire to succeed, express your individuality, or seek satisfaction, are you ensnared in the comparison trap? Before you answer, consider this:
Peer awareness is helpful and friendly competition is fine. But if these dynamics make me boastful or bitter, the opportunity to become better is lost.
When my goal is to improve, it helps to remember life is a journey. Meeting our goals may take time but how we meet them makes us. God’s plan for each life is unique. The difference He makes in my life positions me for the destiny He has for my life.
If I compare the content of my story to another person’s narrative, I risk missing the unique expression of His grace towards each of us.
However, the flip side of comparison is contrast. When I contrast God’s goodness to my ability to earn it, I’m grateful. When I contrast His faithfulness to my inconsistency, I’m humbled. And when I contrast His acceptance of me in Christ to the world’s system for approval, I’m content.
When my comparisons land me outside of gratitude, humility, or contentment, I do a liberating check. As I compare the latest standard to who Christ is and what He’s done, any traps are exposed.
Have you’ve stubbed a toe or two on the comparison trap? If so, here’s some good news: nothing compares to the greatness of knowing the Lord. Many things compete but nothing even comes close. Knowing Him frees us from comparisons and fortifies us with His grace. It is the kind of freedom that brings hope to the heart and joy to the soul.
“To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One. – Isaiah 40:25 NLT