Comparison: Comparing Ourselves to Others, Contentment, Enough, Life

Comparison: Comparing Ourselves to Others

Vanilla

By +Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

Things are meant to be compared. We compare fruit to determine which pieces are the best to purchase. We compare prices on similar items to get the best deal. We compare qualities of an item to decide what we need most for the money we have available to spend.

Bowl of fruit

What we should never compare is people. Whether others compare us to someone else, or more regrettably, when we give ourselves permission to compare ourselves with others.

I’ve walked through this life comparing myself to others. Especially those who seem to have it all together, who are popular, are influencers, are stylish. It’s so easy to see them as enough, as worthy and to find myself lacking in some or all ways.

Some of my friends live interesting, exciting lives, and sometimes mine feels rather vanilla. No chocolate chip accolades for the ways I minister to or help other people. No minty flavor for being the life of a party, the perfect encourager.

Vanilla ice cream

I’m just a mom who gets her kids up and off to school (often with a battle of one sort or another). Who sometimes cleans her house. A woman who writes with the time she’s given in a day. It’s a very internal life. I have no published books to laud as my cookie dough, adding the texture of praiseworthiness, nothing for others to affirm.

When I get together with friends sometimes, I fall into the trap of feeling like I’m less-than. And then my eyes begin to focus on all the ways I’m less-than.

Rather than on the One who makes me Enough.

Three Ducks

Comparing myself to others always leads to a hurting heart. If I let it go long enough, I become blind to ways I can help or encourage others. I’ve fallen into the lie that I have nothing to offer.

I’m vanilla.

Sad Boy

The challenge I’m taking up is to focus on my Maker. To remember Jesus is in me. Because this is true, I have exactly what He wants me to offer others.

What I offer to people will look different than what my friends have to offer. He’s gifted each person uniquely, because He knows the plans He has for each of us. The plans God has for my life will look different than what He’s got in mind for yours. And that’s good.

What isn’t good is when I look at what He’s doing with your life and wonder why He’s not doing that same amazing work with mine. And then to focus on you rather than on the truth that Jesus is in me. He makes me enough.

Always.

I hinder His work when I compare myself with those around me. I show discontentment with where He has me.

In this moment, God has me learning how to be the wife and mom He intends me to be. He’s given me a story to write. He’s given me people to pray for. It feels like a small life. But, I believe God’s using these lessons to give me what I need for His plans to become reality one day.

July Sunset

If I can keep my eyes on Him in each moment, and trust that His plan is the best one for me, then I can walk in His joy. I can serve when He allows me to. I can love well. I can grow to be comfortable with who He has me to be right now.

I don’t have to compare myself with others and come up short. I can cling to the truth that I am enough with Jesus in me. Enough for all He wants to do in and through me.

Summer Sky

When my eyes are focused on how big Jesus is, there’s no room in my visual scope for comparing myself to others. What peace there is in this! Growing in this skill will require a life long disciplining of my thoughts. I’m determined to grow.

Beginning today.

What about you? How do you keep yourself from falling into the trap of comparison? What work is God doing in your life right now? For grins, what’s your favorite flavor of ice-cream?

P.S. To read a great post about this topic, check out Dave Hamlin’s, “To Catch a Thief.”

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22 thoughts on “Comparison: Comparing Ourselves to Others”

  1. My friend, this is a lovely post. And for the record, my favourite ice cream is French Vanilla.

    When I am tempted to compare myself to others, I return to the poem “Richard Cory”, by Edwin Arlington Robinson. I’m sure you are quite familiar with it, but for those of your followers who may not have it by heart, I repeat it here:

    Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
    We people on the pavement looked at him:
    He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
    Clean favored, and imperially slim.

    And he was always quietly arrayed,
    And he was always human when he talked;
    But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
    ‘Good-morning,’ and he glittered when he walked.

    And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
    And admirably schooled in every grace:
    In fine, we thought that he was everything
    To make us wish that we were in his place.

    So on we worked, and waited for the light,
    And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
    And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
    Went home and put a bullet through his head.

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    1. Wow. I had forgotten how amazing the poem “Richard Cory” was. I found it a few years ago in a literature anthology, and it struck me hard. It has such beautiful, blatant perspective.

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    2. Surpreet, thank you for sharing “Richard Cory,” here. It brings to light the truth that we never really know what’s going on in someone else’s mind or heart. Comparing ourselves to the exterior of another is rather pointless, isn’t it? And yes, French Vanilla is tasty. 🙂

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  2. In all modesty, I don’t need to compare myself to anyone, because I’ve been places that God Himself would fear to go…and I came home.

    I’ve seen what would make the most devout Christian abandon faith, and have held fast to mine. God’s got no worries, because I have His back.

    I’m unbeatable, and I buy that status with blood.literally, every single day.

    And I can beat any man in any land at any game that he can name for any amount that he can count.

    I have no choice but the abyss. When you have nothing to lose, you simply can’t lose.

    And I positively adore Dreyer’s Slow Churned French Silk.

    And Breyer’s Creamsicle…

    And Blue Bell Century Sundae…

    And Wal-Mart’s store brand Vanilla Bean…that, perhaps, above all.

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    1. Andrew, you continue amaze me in good ways. Your determination to keep moving forward in spite of what others say and do is inspiring. It sounds as if your freedom from comparison was hard fought — literally. And that through battles you’ve come to know who you are and to hold onto your faith.
       
      And to also savor all flavors of ice cream. 😉 You’re a well-rounded man, Andrew. 

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  3. I appreciate your honesty and your encouragement in this post, Jeanne. And your photographs beautifully illustrate your post too. Great truth here: “When my eyes are focused on how big Jesus is, there’s no room in my visual scope for comparing myself to others.”

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  4. And it’s just as dangerous to compare yourself to others so that you can feel good about your own caramel swirls and whipped cream topping! Whipped cream is mostly air and empty calories ; )

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    1. Sarah, you’re so right. Comparing ourselves to others for the sake of making ourselves feel good reveals a lot about our own insecurities. It’s all just whipped cream in the big picture. 🙂 BTW, I love caramel and whipped cream on real ice cream. 😉

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  5. You’ve done it again, Jeanne. 🙂 This morning I’m working on organizing the women’s book study for this fall that (for the first time) I will be leading.
    The book is The Envy of Eve: finding contentment in a covetous world by Melissa Kruger. It packs a wallop, and I was feeling unable — and at the same time trying to be aware of not comparing myself or envying any other leader…
    Comparing is really not trusting God to give you the life He has promised, whether you’re comparing talents, lives, relationships or whatever — we have to remember that we don’t know the whole story.
    I could go on. Thank you for this post. May I use it for the introduction of the book?
    Unfortunately, I’ve never found an ice cream flavor I don’t like. Well, maybe bubblegum… 🙂

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    1. Thanks for your kind words. Leading a study is always a walking out in faith. And keeping our eyes on Jesus and not on what we think other leaders are doing/good at/etc. The best thing is, He gives the words and wisdom for leading. If you’re in that role, God will give you all you need to fulfill it well. 🙂 That books sounds like one I should read. Thanks for mentioning it.

      Feel free to use this post as an intro for the book. Thanks for the compliment.

      You made me smile with the comment you’ve never found an ice-cream flavor you didn’t like (except bubble gum). 🙂 It can be positively addicting, yes? 😉

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  6. Thanks for your beautiful vulnerable blog Jeanne! You are very good at this!! Comparing all I’ve read I like your style, truthfulness, and vulnerability. It opens up my own eyes that look at me.

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  7. Jeanne, I really like how you not only exposed comparison as the inhibiting preoccupation that it is, but you also showed us where we should fix our attention–on Jesus in the present moment..
    By the way, no matter what they call it, I like ice cream with brownies mixed in:-)
    Keep writing!

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    1. Thank you, Dave. In a crazy way, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who struggles with this. Sometimes it takes the wisdom of others (ahem, that would be you) to remind me how to deal with it.

      And ice cream with brownies?! Oh, that’s delicious by any name. 🙂

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    1. Lisa, I think most people struggle with comparison. May we encourage each other toward being the best “us” God has for us to be.

      Anything chocolatey? You’re talking my ice cream language. 🙂

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  8. Rocky Road is my all-time favorite.

    Jeanne, you are beautiful and sweet, and those who know you can see Jesus shining through your life.

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  9. This post is so relevant, especially in a self-indulgent society like we live in. Contentment in the face of social media like Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook can seem so fleeting, when we are barraged with our friends’ stuff. The only way I’ve found it is in the Living Water of the Holy Spirit in my life, daily. He truly puts it all in perspective with his still, quiet voice.
    Thanks for the post, Jeanne! I especially enjoyed your pictures that aptly illustrated your points.

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    1. “Barraged with our friends’ stuff”—what an apt description. Intentionally or not, that’s how it feels sometimes. 🙂

      I love your cure for comparison, and I totally agree with it. Being hemmed in closely with the Holy Spirit and in God’s word help me keep a more accurate perspective too. Thanks for stopping by!

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