Authentically You Day 4: The Enemy
A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And [Jesus] said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” (Luke 22:24-27, ESV)
Comparison is the thief of joy. This is one of the famous quotes shared in Christian circles that does not come from the Bible. The line is attributed to former president Theodore Roosevelt, and while these were his words, this sentiment has been a common thread among many intelligent minds. Mark Twain was quoted as saying, “Comparison is the death of joy.” However you choose to look at it, the truth is that comparison is more than just the death of joy. Comparison culture kills uniqueness, authenticity, creativity, enthusiasm, peace, and so much more.
Many in the older generation may think that the problem of comparison is new. Although social media has perhaps heightened our awareness of what others have, comparison has been around since the beginning of time. When Eve was in the garden, how did the serpent tempt her? He compared her current standing with that of God’s, and then she wanted the knowledge that God had. In that one moment, comparison stole the peace and wonders of the garden from Adam and Eve. Why did Cain kill Abel? Instead of focusing on his own need before God, he compared himself to his brother and was envious of Abel’s right standing with God. Comparison and envy caused Cain to steal his brother’s life. Skip forward to the New Testament and the ministry of Christ. After Jesus once again detailed how He was going to be killed and raised from the dead, the disciples were quick to disregard it and fight among themselves as to who was the greatest. I can see them now, comparing who spent more time with Jesus or who was more devoted to Him, robbing themselves of a deeper understanding of what Jesus was really telling them. Thinking beyond biblical times and even to recent history, we have the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses.” That phrase was coined after the second World War when the economy was booming and people started to compete with their neighbors as to who had the nicest and newest cars or the best house. Comparison culture is nothing new.
How do we face it today? Especially among the younger generation, social media, TV and movies have escalated the amount of comparison we face on a daily basis. Unfortunately, social media typically only represents the best and most picturesque moments in life. We often feel as if everyone is living this perfect, well-manicured life, while we struggle daily with piles of laundry, bad hair days, and a general lack of what we perceive to be necessities. You just graduated from college and you don’t have a job when everyone else in your friend group does? Failure. You’re 30 years old and single? Failure. You still live with your parents in your 20s because you still can’t quite afford to live on your own? Failure. You are still in an entry-level position, but your friend has made it to a managerial position? Failure. You don’t have a tidy, aesthetically pleasing living room on a daily basis? Failure. Our job isn’t important enough, our style isn’t fresh enough, we don’t have the newest technology, and we aren’t off having amazing experiences, so we’re behind, right?
When our focus is on what we don’t have, life becomes a constant struggle to have and be more. We’ve allowed our lives to be defined by other people’s stories, and it seems like they’re all in chapter eight and we haven’t left the first page. When we put it in perspective, it all seems kind of silly, right? You wouldn’t pick up two books and make sure the progression in chapter two was exactly the same, would you? No, because they’re two entirely different stories and both equally good books. When we live in a constant state of comparison, we will never be able to truly enjoy life. If you’re single and your sole focus is on how you don’t have a partner, you will rob yourself of the freedom singleness brings. If you’re too focused on how messy the playroom is compared to the one you just saw on Instagram, you are robbing yourself of the present joy of playing with your kids. If you’re in a lower position at work and are hyper-focused on climbing the ladder, you will be robbed of enjoying life outside of work. Comparison is our enemy and we must seek to overcome it.
My challenge to you today is to capture your thoughts of comparison. Whenever you feel comparison creeping into your thoughts, point them back to God. Not everyone’s book will look the same, and that’s exactly how He designed it to be. The only standard for measurement is Christ, and when we are focused on growing closer to and being like Him, the expectations of the world will fade away. Remember, you are exactly where you are meant to be, so do what you can with what you have where you are!