As always I’m sitting in my desk chair writing away thinking about everything I want to share with you. All the conversations I’d love to have about life and God and all the mess in between. And I finally had one particular conversation lay heavy on my heart. Comparing ourselves to others.
Is it just me, or have you noticed a growing number of people (including ourselves) seemingly unhappy with their lives and feeling overwhelmingly depressed because of it? You may have felt this way or have heard it from your friends and/or family. And we both know we see it in the media with all the heartbreaking stories of hurting people.
Goodness, it truly hurts my heart to see so many people struggling to enjoy life. And I’m not saying this because I somehow have a perfect life and I feel bad for those who don’t. No, it burdens me because I know how it feels to not be happy with the person I’ve been, or the role I’ve been given, or with life in general, and I don’t want anyone else to have to feel that way.
Because no one wants to stay in that hole forever, right? I know I didn’t. But getting out of it takes work. And it takes work to stay out of it when those same feelings try to creep back into our hearts and take away the joy God has for us.
So after reflecting on why I [or we] sometimes feel depressed/unhappy with our lives, I found that – just like everything else – it comes down to an issue of the heart. In this case, it’s an issue of comparing which leads to coveting.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” – Exodus 20:17
Now while it’s probably safe to say that we don’t have an issue with coveting someone else’s livestock, we can very easily find ourselves coveting in a different way. By way of comparing.
From time-to-time, we may catch ourselves comparing ourselves to someone else’s life [relationship…body…job…you name it] wondering things like: “Does my life stack up to theirs?”; or, “They seem like they’re always happy on social media, and since Instagram is obviously an accurate representation of people’s lives, why am I not as happy? What do they have that I don’t?”
Comparing our lives to another’s is, in my opinion, one of the slipperiest slopes we can find ourselves snowballing down. When we constantly compare ourselves to the people around us, we can unintentionally find ourselves strolling down a path of discontent, wanting things we don’t need, and numbing us from seeing the many blessings we already have…and then, somewhere along the way, we forget that nothing in this world, outside of a real relationship with Christ, will ever truly make us happy. And the truth is – it’s not supposed to. Comparisons focus our attention on the things of this earth, rather than on the things above it.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
But it’s hard to focus on the things above us, right? There are people all around us seemingly happy. They have the things we think we want…but have we ever stopped to ask ourselves, “Why do we feel the need to have these things? What if they’re not right for me, and God knows better than I do?”
If we’re honest with ourselves, do you think it might be because we secretly think if we had those other things, we would fit in better, or maybe we would “matter” more to the people around us? Yes, if we’re being honest, we all have the desire to matter. Which does not make us bad people. The problem arises when we become consumed with trying to fit in and chasing the feeling of “mattering”. Because if we’re constantly chasing the approval of others, how much effort are we putting towards chasing the approval of the only One who matters?
“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
Please don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to feel accepted and wanted by others. It’s a natural desire for us as humans. And I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say that I like being liked, and I also try to act as if I have it all together (which I don’t, by the way). I don’t think that makes me a bad person. The point that I believe it has a negative impact on my heart and perspective is when my desire to be accepted drives me to compare myself to what I think “I should be”, and then I struggle because I know I’ll never be able to achieve that perfect version of myself.
So how do we overcome this? How can we find the beauty in not comparing?
The only way I was able to let go of the desire to “be more like that person”, was to realize that in comparing myself to others, I was disregarding God’s workmanship. It a roundabout way, I was letting a lie fester in my heart…A lie that said, “God, if I just had this other thing then I’ll finally be happy.” This lie can cause our hearts to harden, and miss how we’ve already been blessed.
So coming back to the perspective of this being a heart issue. Comparing and coveting means that our eyes are set on something else, and if our eyes are always set on “something else”, how can our eyes ever be totally set on God?
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and all your mind, and with all your strength.” – Mark 12:30
So to conclude…several years ago when I was getting back into my faith, there was a story in the Bible that stood out to me concerning a wealthy man coming to Jesus to ask how he can enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Mark 10:17-31). What I see in this interaction, is a man wanting to find joy in Christ, but his heart was focused on the things of man. Therefore, when Jesus tells him he has to give up the things of man to truly have a heart for God, the man was upset. You see, he wasn’t willing to give up everything to bear his cross for the sake of Christ. And after reading this story, I realized I honestly wasn’t either. And in that moment I had a life-changing thought:
Maybe there’s something to be said about being willing to give up everything for the sake of Christ…because if we expect nothing, we are thankful for all things.
I’m not saying we can’t have nice things, or that in order to truly love Christ we have to give everything away. But what I am saying is this…When we can let go of the things of this life, and embrace having nothing but a true relationship with God, we will then find beauty in the life we’ve been given – no matter how our lives look at the current moment. In other words, when the expectation for perfection is gone, a heart truly content in Christ is revealed. And when we are content in Christ, we can find joy and peace we’ve been looking for that goes beyond understanding (Philippians 4:7).
And so today, whatever comparisons we’ve been holding on to, let’s both choose to release them. Let us not covet the world around us, but instead, find the beauty in not comparing.
Thank you so much friend for taking the time to read this today! I’m praying that I spoke to your heart and helped you grow closer to our Heavenly Father.
Praying for you today and always.
Love in Christ,