6 Keys to Escape the Comparison Trap
We understand intellectually that life isn’t fair, but our culture acts as though life should be fair. There’s been a convergence within our society between justice and fairness. Justice is objective. We should be able to measure what justice is. We have laws, rules, regulations and certain things that need to be enforced for justice.
I think we could agree that we live in a pretty unjust society, and that’s a result of sin. People are fallen. As Christians, we should make sure we’re working toward justice in our culture as much as possible, even though we know it will never be perfect. On the other hand, fairness is a very subjective thing. What’s fair to you may not be fair to me. There’s a difference between justice and fairness.
So, let me share six practical things to do to escape the trap of wanting to compare yourself with others in this blog, part 1 and the next one – part 2.
- Change your belief that life is supposed to be fair.
One of the top three topics we’ve had on our Facebook Intentional Living Minute for the last six months was about life not being fair. We asked, “What’s one thing your child needs to learn before they leave home?” The answer we received the most is that life is not fair. One of the gifts we need to give to our children or grandchildren is to teach them that life isn’t fair. We need to get the idea of life being fair out of our heads. We need to tell ourselves the truth – life is not fair.
- Focus on your strengths, your weaknesses, your gifts and your blessings from God.
God has wired each of us differently. We can get into trouble when we try to move into a lane in life that we shouldn’t be in. We all have our own unique gifts. There are things I’ve been gifted with that if I get too far away from them, it becomes stressful for me. And you have the same thing.
- Be mindful that God’s path is different for each person.
It’s not only focusing on our strengths but also understanding that God has something special for us. Jesus shared about fairness in John 21 as He walked with his disciples and talked to Peter. He said, “When you were young, you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished. But when you get old, you’ll have to stretch out your hands while someone else dresses you and takes you where you don’t want to go” (v. 18 paraphrased). He’s telling Peter a little bit of a foretaste of how He was going to die. Jesus then tells Peter to follow Him. And then Peter notices that John is following right behind, and Peter asked Jesus what’s going to happen to him? Peter was comparing himself to John. He wanted to know if John would get a better deal than he was going to get. Isn’t that the sinful nature that we have? We always are comparing, and this gets right to the heart of the matter of what happens in families, because we are constantly comparing.
- Rejoice when others succeed.
This is a tough one sometimes. It’s easier to weep when people are failing, but when people are successful – people in our family, people we compare ourselves with – that can be disconcerting or difficult. But it’s important to be able to rejoice when others succeed.
John 10:10 says the devil comes to steal, kill and destroy. Think about the story of Joseph and his brothers (Genesis 37). Joseph had a dream and when he shared it with his brothers, it says
“his brothers envied him” (v. 11). They were comparing themselves to their younger brother and didn’t think things were fair. They said, “You got this dream from God. God didn’t give us the dream.” They took matters into their own hands. One brother even wanted to kill him, but instead they threw him into a pit and later sold him into slavery.
Refusing to rejoice when others succeed and comparing ourselves to one another damages relationships severely. We’ve got a biblical example of a relationship that was severely damaged based on what didn’t appear fair.
- Don’t keep score.
There’s always going to be someone ahead of us. There is always someone on the ladder. Someone will always be just a little quicker, faster, smarter, younger, more handsome or a whole pile of other descriptors.
1st Corinthians 13:4-6 says, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out” (NLT). Real love doesn’t keep score. I think record-keeping in relationships creates a problem.
When we spend our lives trying to get up to that next wrung on the ladder, we sometimes push other people out of the way, and we miss the fact that we’re keeping score.
- Make life a little bit fairer for someone.
Some people just need a hand. Every day we can reach out and bring one person up a little bit. We can offer a little more justice in our world to make life a little fairer for someone. We can reach down on the ladder and help someone up that’s below. We can all do that at any level. That’s why mentoring, teaching and being available to help others is so important.
Life isn’t fair, but as Christians, we can make sure we share the gospel so others can see that fairness isn’t the goal. The goal is to be restored in relationship with the Creator of the universe. He is the ultimate justice keeper and we want to have the right relationship with Him.
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