Comparison - The Joy Killer
Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. (2 Cor 10:12)
for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Phil 4:11-13)
I've come to the conclusion that I need more joy in my life. Not only that, but I've also come to the conclusion that I'm the one responsible to bring that about. I can't wait for life circumstances to change so that I can have more joy. Sure, I might have moments that turn out wonderful, or even seasons of life that end up being pretty great. But overall, if I wait for my external circumstances to change, I might end up waiting a long time, being miserable in the process. No, having joy is a choice that I make every day; a choice of how I want to live.
So what do I do about that? I've been contemplating that for quite some time now. I've been practicing gratitude regularly… intentionally speaking out things that I'm thankful for on a daily basis. I've also been working on having a manageable life schedule where all of the things in my life are well balanced… work, rest, time with family, time with friends, etc. I've also been trying to cultivate the right mindset going into any situation I find myself in. Going in trying to make the best out of it and looking for the positive rather than expecting the worst. Usually if I expect something bad I'm rarely disappointed. If I expect something good I can find something I enjoy about it.
However, along the way with this journey, I've learned that there are several things that go on in my mind that automatically kill my joy. One of the major ones is whenever I compare myself to others. It doesn't matter whether the comparison is favourable or unfavourable to myself, either way my joy goes out the window. It cultivates a mentality where I'm constantly looking at others, what they have, how they're doing, etc. What that does is make me keenly aware of what I don't have. I'm focused on scarcity instead of what I do have or how blessed I am. In the middle of those kinds of thoughts, joy flees.
Now, I normally wouldn't consider myself a person who is constantly comparing themselves to others. I can see it in some other people fairly easily, but not myself. I mean, our world is full of examples (especially online) where people see someone really fit and they think "I wish I was like that"… or someone famous, or beautiful, or wealthy, good at sports, good at music, successful in their career, etc. We're constantly bombarded with images of these people on our social media feeds, the advertising we see, the movies and TV shows we view, and we want to be like that, but we know that we're not. I thought I had those kinds of thoughts under control until a conversation with God early on this week.
I was reading about comparison and God started prompting me to look into it within myself. My first response was to say, "I don't think I really struggle with that". Frankly, I'm always a little astounded how I default to arguing with God… I know that I'm never going to win and that He knows me better than I do, but somehow I still keep doing it. Immediately after dismissing what God was saying, He pointed out to me how I constantly compared the size of my church with how successful I was. That's comparing. I measure how impactful my ministering is. That's comparing. I evaluate how good any particular church service is, based on services from my past. That's comparing.
I realized that I actually compare pretty often, but for me it's in the area of my success and what I'm pursuing with my life. It's not in looks, fitness, wealth, or anything like that. I worry about how successful I am. I worry about whether I'm making a difference or not. However, I'm going about it the wrong way… looking at what others are doing and whether I measure up. That's no way to live life. My joy is being sucked away because I'm looking at whether I'm going to "make the grade" in the next meeting we have or whether we meet my expectations of growth and impact. I know that it's okay to pursue excellence, but not to set a measuring rod for that excellence by what someone else is doing, or what I've done in the past. All I can do is be faithful to what God has called me to do in this season of life.
I had to repent about this and immediately it was like a weight lifted from my shoulders. I had peace and contentment again… the ability to feel joy without the constant pressure and worry of what I lack dragging it down.
Let's choose joy. Let's choose to not concern ourselves so much with what everyone else is doing. Instead let's pursue what God has set in front of each of us and do that well… and let's have some fun and joy while we do it.