Comparison Is a Thief of Joy: Embrace Your Unique God-Given Journey

Theodore Roosevelt once stated that comparison is a thief of joy. Mark Twain, before him, made the statement even stronger by replacing the word “thief” with “death”. I wonder how both men would feel today as the battle of comparison has become more widespread. Today it affects every age group, even our children and our elderly, because of social media and a world connected by the digital devices at our fingertips. And the truth is that comparison too often becomes a negative cycle that distorts our perception of truth and drags us into a whirlpool of discontent.

Comparison blinds us to the unique God-designed beauty and worth within each of us. It hinders our growth because we distract ourselves with others and what they do or do not accomplish, what they say, and how they act. We end up missing out on our unique giftings or the open doors God places before us. But, friend, it doesn’t have to be that way. It is possible to break free from the shackles of constant comparison and embrace our unique God-given journey. Only then will we truly discover all that God created us to be. Only then will we experience the fullness of His love, joy, hope, and purpose.

Explore why comparison is a thief of joy and learn how embracing your unique God-given journey can lead to lasting happiness and fulfillment. Turn to these Bible verses as resources as well as a list of critical strategies to help you break free of the shackles unhelpful comparison has placed on your life.

Identifying Comparison as a Thief of Joy

Imagine for a moment, standing in front of a mirror but instead of seeing yourself, you see a collage of everyone else’s worst moments. But wait … maybe that isn’t hard to imagine at all because the truth is that it may just be what you are subconsciously doing.

Social media shows us the highlight reels of our best moments. The perfectly curated ones and those that commemorate the remarkable moments of life. Then, when we look in the mirror we subconsciously measure our moments alongside theirs. We see the features that don’t fit our idea of beauty and we think who we see in the mirror — this version of who God made — is somehow not beautiful enough.

We compare our families, education, adventures, possessions, accomplishments, and relationships to the ones we see and find most wonderful. And somehow, what we are and what we have is never enough.

Then we flip the coin and see the other ugly side of comparison and how it becomes a thief of joy.

Maybe we compare those same social squares to our lives and determine what we have is better. And not better in a way that makes us grateful. But a way that is haughty and leads us to believe the lie that we are better than others.

Neither side of that coin is where God wants us. Neither side of that coin leads us to fulfillment. To true peace, joy, hope, or love. Neither side honors God.

So, yes, even though it can be used to help us grow when used correctly, comparison is a thief of joy.

Understanding the Impact of Comparison

Comparison is destructive and dangerous. When we engage in unhelpful comparisons, we anchor our happiness to a constantly moving target.

Comparing yourself to others only makes you less aware of His love and goodness in your own life.

Corine Williams, Ph.D. – Therapy for Christians

Comparison:

  • Feeds a distorted fixation on what we lack and robs us of genuine contentment. Rather than fully appreciating the amazing life we’ve built through individual experiences and personal victories, we find ourselves drawn toward a desire for more. A desire that is subtly influenced by whispers of inadequacy when comparing ourselves to others.
  • Can pit family members against family members, friends against friends, and colleagues against colleagues.
  • Leads us to chase success defined by others’ lived experiences rather than based upon our own unique God-given callings.
  • Alienates us from others as we begin to view others as a measuring tape of our success.
  • Stops us from cheering others on as they tackle life.
Explore why comparison is a thief of joy and learn how embracing your unique God-given journey can lead to lasting happiness and fulfillment. Turn to these Bible verses as resources as well as a list of critical strategies to help you break free of the shackles unhelpful comparison has placed on your life.

Let’s Look to See What the Bible Says About Comparison (and if it Really Is a Thief of Joy!)

1. 2 Corinthians 10:12 NLT

“Oh, don’t worry; we wouldn’t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!”

Paul was criticizing the false teachers who were proving their goodness by comparing themselves with others instead of with God’s standards. Comparing with others may leave us prideful because we think we are better, or disheartened because we think we are less. Yes, in academia, we compare one bit of knowledge to another. However, as followers of Christ, we only compare ourselves to His standards. Our questions to ask are “How does my life measure up to what God wants?” And, “Does what I am doing bring glory to Him?”

2. Psalms 139:13-14 Message

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day. “

Not only do we know these beautiful things about our creation. We also know that our DNA is unique to us. There are no two people alike, so why are we trying to be like someone else instead of figuring out what God wants us to uniquely do?

3. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 NLT

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” (emphasis mine)

These verses tell us we are ALL given gifts. The Bible says, “each one.” God pays special attention to each life He creates. He plans a unique life, calling, and equipping.

4. Romans 12:4-6 Message

In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.

We each have an important part or role in the whole picture of life. There’s room for all. We need each other. It’s how God designed the best of what the world has to offer.

God happily makes room in His Kingdom for each of us. There is only one of us. No carbon copies in existence! We weren’t created to do like “her.” But rather, we were created to do like us. We each are a part of the whole body needed to fulfill God’s plan.

5. Philippians 2:1-4 Message

“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”

There is room for all in God’s kingdom. Cheer that sister or brother forward. Cancel thoughts of comparison or jealousy with words of Truth. When someone else accomplishes a goal, raise a hallelujah. When they see success, praise God that more souls will know Jesus because of them. Be faithful to whomever or whatever God gives us.

It may look like that person’s success was easily achieved. But, it wasn’t! We only see the highlight reel. We don’t see the personal trials they’ve overcome to get where they are. So cheer them on. Be a person who cares, not compares. Because when we do so, the kingdom of God advances. And so do we.

How to Overcome Comparison as a Thief of Joy

Below is a list of critical strategies to implement that will help you overcome using unhelpful comparison — the kind of comparison that steals your joy. If you have years of unhealthy thinking patterns, it will take practice to reroute those patterns. God gives fresh mercies every morning, though. So don’t get frustrated when you suffer a setback. Each morning is a chance for a new start. You will never be perfect, but your goal is to reflect Jesus more with each day.

  1. Love others as you love yourself.
  2. Treat others as you would like them to treat you.
  3. Cultivate empathy.
  4. Shift life theme or focus to gratitude and contentment as opposed to complaints and unrest.
  5. Embrace your unique qualities.
  6. Focus on personal growth and progress as opposed to what others are doing.
  7. Practice self-compassion and acceptance.
  8. Harness the skill of healthy comparison.
  9. Let go of the need for approval.
  10. Find fulfillment in genuine connections

What About Healthy Comparison?

Not all comparisons are inherently harmful. Some comparisons can actually motivate us and drive us to perform better. Studies have shown that people tend to perform better in the presence of rivals. This healthy competition can push us to work harder and strive for excellence. And this is a skill worth researching and refining!

However, finding the line between harmful and helpful comparisons can be tricky. In order to overcome unhelpful comparisons, it is crucial to surround ourselves with authentic people who celebrate our achievements rather than fueling our insecurities. We need true relationships and those who will be cheerleaders in our corner.

If we have toxic or critical people in our lives, set boundaries around those relationships. Sometimes we grow up in dysfunctional family dynamics and it results in people-pleasing behaviors. We must learn to change those behaviors. It’s not about pleasing others. It is about pleasing God and doing what is right before Him. If we get that right, our actions will be honorable.

Instead of focusing on what others have accomplished, we should shift our attention to our own personal growth and development. By setting realistic goals and celebrating our own progress, we can find fulfillment and joy in our own journey. Then, be grateful for how far you have come. Maybe you aren’t where you want to be, but celebrate that you aren’t where you once were!

More Joy? More Hope?

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