“After this baby is born, I’m writing an entire series on why you shouldn’t believe anything you read on the internet concerning pregnancy.” I said to my husband, slapping my laptop shut. He chuckled.
“So they shouldn’t believe anything you write, either.”
“That’s beside the point,” I muttered, fully aware of my illogical solution. I sighed. “I know people mean well, but I haven’t followed the advice of 80% of these articles and I’ve had a dream pregnancy so far. Besides, no woman handles pregnancy the same way! Basically the only thing they can say for sure is that, at the end of nearly 10 months, you will have a baby.”
My experience with pregnancy (now at 6 1/2 months) is just one example of why comparison doesn’t work. If anything, the temptation to compare has been killed by this pregnancy, where advice from other women, “facts” shared in Parenting Magazine and horror stories from every sector have convinced me that no woman experiences pregnancy the same way because no two women are the same!
It would behoove younger women to learn this earlier than I did. While it took pregnancy to finally cure me of the temptation to compare, comparison is no respecter of persons. Every woman is prone to this insidious habit. Unfortunately, many do not realize the damage it does.
As a part of the “Broken and Beautiful” series I had to take time to cover this “harmless” habit that so often goes overlooked. Young women are striving to be confident, secure, contributors to the kingdom of God, but are being defeated in the process – all because of comparison.
1. Comparison creates an environment of competition.
A few weeks ago I posted on my blog’s Facebook page:
“We can never be content with our beauty and confident in who we are if we consistently compare ourselves to other women. Every woman has a different genetic makeup, different habits, a different lifestyle, and different preferences. Comparison not only destroys confidence, it robs you of identity and spawns jealousy, envy, and arrogance toward women who look more like our mental ideal. We can’t love other women with that attitude, and therefore we can’t please God through comparison.”
Jesus outlined God’s priorities by stating the two greatest commandments in Matthew 22:37-40: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind… and Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love God, love people.
Comparison destroys this initiative. Instead of cultivating an environment of acceptance and unity, it pits women against each other – all without saying a word.
We think it’s harmless because we don’t say anything. We silently measure ourselves against other women to – what? See how we’re doing? How much better or worse we are? How much smarter or dumber we are? How much slimmer or fatter we are?
Comparison defeats confidence. Confidence cannot thrive where it is continually measured against variable standards. Because every woman is different, measuring ourselves against one another will simply drive us crazy with consciousness of either our own inadequacy or our own superiority. Other women are not your competition. We have been mandated to love one another as much as we love and honor ourselves – and we can’t do that when we compare.
2. Comparison is the enemy of community.
We live in an age where real community is diluted to Facebook chat and liking each others’ Instagram photos. Getting people to “just show up” to a party, to have coffee face to face, or spend time in person is a genuine struggle in this ultra-connected, yet disconnected, world.
To be honest, I think many women avoid getting together in person because they are afraid. They are afraid of being exposed as inadequate. They are afraid of being “judged”. They are afraid to host company, cook dinner, and be hospitable because they are constantly comparing themselves to others – and they think others are constantly comparing to them.
Comparison makes you skeptical of people. Comparison destroys trust, and real community is built on trust. Women bound by comparison are never able to rejoice with other singles, mothers, or wives. They have limited friendships and shallow conversations, constantly pulling out the yardstick to measure their bodies, jobs, houses, and children against Kelly’s and Katie’s and Kristin’s.
Real community depends on transparency, as well as a willingness to accept the flaws of other people. Comparison breeds the lie that “other people” are either perfect or inadequate – nothing in between.
3. Comparison never builds confidence for the long term.
We utilize comparison primarily as a measure of success and progress; it’s how we know “how we’re doing” in a specific area of life. Ironically, comparison does not build confidence, but destroys it.
Certainly knowing that we look better than everyone else in the room can give an ego boost for an evening. But comparison requires constant upkeep. In order to maintain the feeling of confidence, not only are we required to be consistently at the “top of our game”, we must perpetually pull out the aforementioned yardstick to gauge progress in every stage of life.
Confidence by comparison, then, is not sourced in something internal, but something external. It becomes dependent on how we look, what we own, or what job we have. It is not objective; it has become subjective. And that’s not real confidence.
Thus all the world’s encouragement to “be yourself” is defeated from the get-go when we use others as the measure of who our “selves” should even be.
4. Comparison facilitates pride.
We think comparison is harmless because it is silently facilitated. We think we have a handle on how often we compare, and that the effects of comparison are far less consequential than people (including this blogger) may say.
But one of the most dangerous side effects of comparison is that it facilitates pride.
Pride comes in many forms, but two are most recognizable: self-love and self-hate. Both extreme love for and extreme hate for oneself come from the same source: a lofty view of Self. It is not possible to have both a high view of God and a high view of self simultaneously.
God abhors pride because pride says, “I can do it without You.” For a Lord who lovingly created mankind in order to have a relationship with us, pride is the roadblock to intimacy. When we compare ourselves to others, we are using comparison as a measure of value instead of embracing the value God places upon us. This is a form of pride: “I can find my value in someone other than You.”
“In his pride the wicked does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” (Psalm 10:4) When we compare, we crowd out God’s place in our minds and replace Him with the opinions of people. God no longer becomes our security, our validation, or the measure of our success. His love is not the source of our value. His grace is not our guide. Comparison, though it looks harmless, is the enemy of a strong spiritual life.
5. Comparison destroys dependency on God.
Keying off the last point, comparing ourselves to others creates an unhealthy dependency on popular culture, trends, and opinions. It also creates a circular dependency on comparison itself, requiring that we consistently compare in order to maintain self-confidence.
By comparing, we destroy our dependency on God, and thereby limit our intimacy with Him.
Do you ever wonder why you don’t hear God’s direction for a decision in life?
Why you might not have peace in some area?
It could be because you are using the lives of others as the measure for your own. But their lives and callings are not yours. The only way to know what way to go is in dependence on the God who designed you and knows your path:
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” (John 16:13)
“And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21)
Comparison defeats a spiritual woman in a sneaky, silent way. It shortcuts God’s design and hamstrings true confidence. It’s no way to live your life!
In every stage – high school, college, singleness, marriage, pregnancy – comparison will present itself for ready use. But remember that God calls people to very different lives, situations, and missions for reasons we do not know. We cannot compare two fundamentally different callings and expect to come up with real guidance and truth.
Instead, measure yourself against God’s standards. As I reiterated in the Other Virgin Diaries series, we should be asking “How holy can I be?” in every situation. Stop comparing to Jenny and Julie and look to Jesus instead. Measure yourself by His standard and accept His definition of your value, and in doing so, you will find peace.