“When we look at what others get in life instead of being grateful for what we receive, it leads to unhappiness.”
It’s natural to compare.
But it’s not helpful.
It starts when we are kids.
When my mom gave us chocolate cake and my sister got the biggest piece, I wasn’t happy! Personalities kick in, too. I didn’t like it, but I kept silent. Other kids would make their complaint of this gross injustice known loudly.
When we’re five years old, we understand that behavior. But when it continues into adulthood, it is nearly always unproductive, unhealthy and even harmful.
It happens so fast, it’s basically reflexive. We sit in someone’s shiny new car or walk into a beautiful home, and comparison immediately kicks in. It’s easy to compare our talents, looks and opportunities to others, as well.
And of course, we as leaders compare churches. Let’s be honest—we just do.
Some comparison is innocent and no big deal if it leads to appreciation instead of envy. But most comparison leads our minds and hearts in the wrong direction. It’s a waste of energy and produces a trap that’s easy to get caught in.
There is a difference between comparing to more than you have (upward) and comparing to less than you have (downward).
This is when you compare yourself to someone who has less or achieves less than you. There are two primary results of this:
1. It fortifies an unhealthy sense of inner well-being. It’s very easy to boost how you feel about yourself by comparing yourself to someone who has less or accomplished less than you. This is obviously not a good practice.
2. Removes the edge that helps you improve. If you are always the biggest fish in the pond, your view of reality is distorted. Any initiative to improve and grow is often diminished.
This is when you compare yourself to someone who has more or achieves more than you. There are five primary results of this:
1. Diminishes gratitude.
2. Decreases contentment.
3. Weakens self-worth.
4. Lowers your confidence.
5. Steals inner peace.
There is a better way.
The parable of the workers in the vineyard is instructive. It’s found in Matthew 20:1-16. Here’s a quick summary.
The landowner went out early in the morning to hire laborers. He agreed to pay them one denarius a day. He continued to hire others as the day progressed. When it came time to pay, he paid them all the same—one denarius—regardless of how many hours they worked. The ones who worked longer were very upset and complained. Here’s how the landowner responded:
But he answered one of them, “I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?” (Matt. 20:13-15)
When we look at what others get in life instead of being grateful for what we receive, it leads to unhappiness and discontentment.
So here are best practices to break free from the comparison trap.
1. Don’t worry about what others get. (And you didn’t.)
That will eat you alive and you’ll never find peace, joy or inner contentment.
2. Focus specifically on daily gratitude for what you have and receive.
Practice recognizing and acknowledging even the smallest things that you receive and go your way.
3. Practice generosity with others.
You don’t have to be rich to be generous. Generosity begins in the heart, not the wallet. It’s amazing what generosity does for the disposition of a leader.
4. Appreciate and enjoy the blessings of others.
When you see, experience or learn something really cool that someone else has or got to do, practice shaping your first response. Change it to be an “inner smile” that expresses itself in outer joy and genuinely gracious behavior.
5. Be honest about what you want.
It’s OK to acknowledge what you would like out of life. Your Father in heaven is the giver of all good and perfect gifts. He is your Abba! He wants to bless you. This doesn’t mean that you and I get everything we want, but you can always tell the Father what you want.
Then trust him with gratitude for what you receive. If your church or position or salary isn’t all that you hoped for, serve faithfully knowing God has your best interest at heart. Don’t compare—enjoy! Someone will always have more and better than you.
Don’t let comparison rob you of joy.