The Comparison Trap
Written by Dawn Goh
Who am I? Why am I here on earth? What do I do with my life?
These are daunting questions. Questions that can propel us in life yet drive us into the deepest, darkest caves of depression. Growing up as a Christian, I’ve learnt that I should live my life for Christ, carry the cross, and follow Him.
Yes, I do 100% believe that, but the bigger question is: HOW?
I turned to people around me for answers. I observed how other good Christians led their lives. I let what they did define success for me. Do well in school, get a degree, get a good job, serve well, work on a project/business that can impact the lives of people, and shine for Jesus.
Don’t get me wrong, these aren’t bad things. In fact, these are awesome achievements! But the detrimental part for me was that I grew up wired to compare myself with others. It was difficult to celebrate the success of other people. When someone has less than me, I subconsciously feel better about myself.
My worth was tied to the value I perceived of others.
The ‘best’ part was that, though I knew I shouldn’t have been comparing, I never knew how it could affect me so badly. It consumed my mind. I would, for instance, look at someone fitter than me and think to myself, that’s something I can never achieve, and then give up. Or I would see someone with a more successful career and feel lousy about myself.
But God is good.
If we remain attentive and obedient, He will never let us stay in a place we shouldn’t be in. He’ll pull us out of the pit at any cost, even if it’ll be a bumpy ride.
A small incident at a worship conference opened my eyes to see how much I needed to get out of the comparison trap I was caught in. A trivial mistake was made by the administration of the organisation that made me feel offended and devalued.
Countless thoughts of self-pity and self-entitlement ran through my mind. The offense stung. I was so upset I couldn’t engage in worship at all that morning.
I told God, “God, I’m pissed. I don’t feel like worshipping today! Not with this bunch of people who talk about honour but don’t practise what they preach!” On and on I went, like a spoilt brat. I wanted very badly to feel okay but I struggled getting over the offense.
That was when the voice of wisdom spoke in a gentle, still, small voice: “I’ll walk out this journey of comparison with you.”
“Where did that come from?” I wondered, and that was the moment the lies were exposed and everything became clearer to me. I realised I had let myself become so offended, just because I didn’t get what everyone else got.
I knew I needed to hear this. I was (and still am) so glad that it was at the beginning of my life; my marriage that God revealed this area of my life I needed to work on (this happened around the time I had just gotten married).
If I hadn’t known, I’d continue all my life living in this trap. There would always be something or someone to compare myself with, and that would have been a stumbling block for as long as I maintain this crippling mindset.
Since then I’ve caught myself many times slipping down the path of comparison and the Holy Spirit has always guided me back so patiently, lovingly, and kindly.
It can still be a struggle at times, but I’ve learnt a few lessons in my journey so far and I’d like to share a few tips on how to get free of the comparison trap.
- Take every thought captive – when you hear a voice of negativity or feel an awful sourness in your gut, stop yourself and ask why. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the deeper root issue here.
- Guard your heart with the truth that is the Word of God, so you won’t get fooled by lies. The Word of God is like a mirror for our souls, it shows us who we really are.
- Finally, be patient with yourself! This journey will take time. You might still feel the things you feel when that other person just seems to always do better than you. Remember that that’s perfectly okay. We have a Father who is always willing to pick us up when we fall. The key is to never give up.
I pray that today, the same voice of wisdom will speak to your heart and free you from the lies that say you’re not good enough because you don’t measure up to someone else.
You were created to be different.
You were created to be special.
And you’ll be a lot happier if you give up comparing. 😊