Comparison is the Thief of Joy

As a christian male, do you struggle with comparing yourself to others? You are not alone. Comparison is the thief of joy. Don't let others steal your joy. Find out what to look for and what you can do.
hand of a man playing chess, comparison among men

Comparison is the thief of joy.
~Theodore Roosevelt

Do you struggle with comparing yourself to others?

He has a better job than I do. I bet he makes a lot more money than I do. How does he afford a boat? I wish I had a family like his, they look so happy.

Perhaps it is more subtle—maybe you refrain from sharing your achievements for fear of judgement from others, or the feeling that your wins are less worthy of praise and encouragement than others’.  

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to a recent study, more than 75% of people report feeling envious of someone in the last year. Theodore Roosevelt is credited with the quote “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Isn’t that the truth? With the popularity of social media, it is easier than ever to compare yourself to the Instagram snapshots of the “perfect” lives of others. But the temptation of comparison is nothing new.

In 2 Corinthians 10:12, Paul says,

“Because we dare not classify or compare ourselves to others who praise themselves. They, on the other hand, are not sensible in judging themselves by themselves and comparing themselves to one another.”

Here Paul points out that the Corinthians are applauding themselves on how they measure up to some unwritten list of worldly standards. Paul has chosen not to participate in this cultural competition to be the most popular public personality.


Cultural Competition

How often do you find yourself in such a cultural competition? Do you find yourself desiring something because someone else has it? That new iPhone? New car? Bigger house? Exotic vacation? Job promotion? Comparing yourself to others often leaves you feeling frustrated, anxious, or depressed. 

Our culture is so focused on the rat race that we lose focus of what truly matters along the way. While some social comparison can motivate people to improve, it often promotes judgmental, biased, and overly competitive or superior attitudes.


Break the Comparison Cycle

Comparison tells us not to be content. We compare ourselves to the achievements of others, such as buying a new car, getting a great job, or having a picture-perfect marriage, and we become disheartened about our own situation. Comparison steals our joy, and if we are not careful it will steal our money and energy as well. We need to break the comparison cycle because it is a game we will never win.


Are You Aware?

The first step to breaking the habit of comparison is awareness. Take time to honestly reflect on areas in your life where you feel most likely to compare yourself to others.

  • What:

    Consider what you are most envious of. Is it marital status, career, finances, material possessions?

  • When:

    Contemplate when such envious thoughts enter your mind and what you’re doing. Are you scrolling through Instagram or LinkedIn? Is it when you are talking to your friends and families about their jobs? Diving through high-end neighborhoods?

  • Who:

    Make a mental list of who you find yourself frequently comparing yourself with.
    Is there a certain person who is always bragging or who makes you feel inferior? Someone who constantly posts pictures of their endless tropical vacations?


Focus on the Good—Focus on God

Being aware of the act of comparison allows us to redirect our thoughts and mindset. When you notice your mind wondering into envious territory, redirect your thoughts and focus on what you already have in your life to be thankful for. Find joy in what God has so graciously given you.

One tool is a positive affirmation that you use to interrupt your negative thoughts. Set a goal to remind yourself of this affirmation the next time you begin to compare yourself to someone else, redirecting your thoughts to the positives in your life. In doing so, you can develop a new habit of gratitude.

Gratitude leads to contentment, which permits joy and satisfaction no matter your circumstance. This doesn’t mean you don’t have goals or ambition, or that you are sitting around doing nothing. It just allows you to develop a peace in your life about what God has blessed you with today.


Avoid Triggers

Now that you are aware of what triggers your comparative thoughts, try to avoid those specific triggers.

Maybe you need to take a social media hiatus or avoid the high-end shopping district for a while. Maybe you stick to working out at home versus going to the gym and comparing your body to the 22-year-old power lifters. Whatever initiates you to compare yourself to others and decrease your contentment in life, make a plan to avoid them if possible.


Pray

If finding contentment in your current life situation is proving difficult, take it to the Lord in prayer. God wants His children to bring the big and the small and lay it all at His feet. He wants a personal, intimate relationship with you.

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