The Battles of Raising Today’s Teens Day 5: Battling Comparison
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10, ESV)
Scrolling through Instagram left her feeling “less than”—about 20 pounds too heavy and apparently cursed with red hair and pale skin. She never felt beautiful, and the longer she scrolled, the more inadequate she felt.
He scurried into the locker room after what felt like his worst game performance yet. With two missed passes, the looks from his teammates told him loud and clear the same words he heard over and over again in his own head: you’re a screw-up and no one wants you on the team.
The cafeteria was a place of misery for her. The cool girls all sat together—the best clothes, the right make-up, and the beauty necessary for their table, even if it was all shallow and ridiculous. She rushed past with her tray of food and heard them whisper and laugh as she passed by. If only she were more attractive and had parents who could afford clothing like theirs, maybe she would have a better chance of fitting in.
We could go on and on, but you get the point. Comparison is a thief and it hurts our kids every single day. And here’s the thing—we often fall for the same lies from our own peer group. As long as we allow ourselves to stand under the measuring stick of the world, we will always, always fall short. But even though we begin to accept this truth more as we grow wiser, it still hurts us when we see our kids fall under the pressures of peer comparisons. Let’s be clear from the beginning—your kids need to hear their value from you. You won’t ruin them if you give them compliments and encourage them, but you may ruin them if you don’t.
All kids (and adults) need to feel acceptance. There is nothing more isolating than feeling inadequate and alone. We need to understand that our kids are seeking acceptance, and if we fail them in this area, they will often seek it in destructive patterns. A child needs to hear they are loved and valued. They need parents who listen to them and care enough to ask questions and offer encouragement in these delicate, formative years. While many teens seek the solace of their rooms, don’t allow them to become a stranger to you—one who eats and sleeps under your roof, but whom you know little about.
While you could just go the route of teaching your kids their value in the eyes of a loving heavenly Father (and that is not to be ignored—in fact, it’s necessary), it will only bring some comfort in the middle of peer comparison. Unfortunately, most kids are not spiritually mature enough at this point in their life for that to carry them through their teen years. So what are you to do when your own child constantly feels inadequate and unaccepted for who they are? Or for the kid who turns to bullying in order to turn the negativity away from themselves?
We must be the example to our children when it comes to acceptance and love of others, even those living a life we don’t agree with. We can still love those who live outside of God’s design, entrenched in sinful lifestyles. If we are constantly whispering disapprovingly of this person or that person, don’t you think we contribute to the cycle of comparison and related bullying? This doesn’t mean we need to condone sin, but we should approach sinners with compassion and love; if we don’t, why would they ever crave the good news of the gospel message?
We know God is far more concerned with the heart of people than their appearance. We read that truth in this Scripture: “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, ESV). This could almost be freeing news if my own heart was lovely rather than laced with sinful and dishonoring thoughts. Yet it shows us where our true value is found in the eyes of God—it’s inside of us, the part that makes you you! While our kids need to hear our validating words on their appearance, take it further than that and also point out the good qualities of their character.
Comparison is bound to be a lifelong occasional enemy. We often listen to hidden messages in words said and unsaid. We scroll and feel inadequate. But may it never be said of us as parents that we contributed to the negative assault against the hearts of our own children.
May they learn from our lips and hearts that they are so loved. We have the opportunity to reflect the love of Christ for His people—loving us faithfully and encouraging us through good days and especially in the harder days. May we treat them like the good heritage they are, and trust that God will help us in our quest to build them up, as we are to build up our family of faith.