Mark Alan Williams
How The Curse Of Comparison Crushes
The world is full of comparisons—what’s the problem?
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Life is full of the curse of comparison, but often comparison crushes. Did you watch “American Idol” (or as I like to call it “American Idolatry”)? Generally, I liked the show and Carolyn was a big fan. But sometimes it could be brutal. Especially early in each season when performers thought they were being brought to the next level because they were talented. In fact, they were being set up to be rather viciously mocked and humiliated by Simon and others.
One time our family went to a Madame Tussauds Wax Museum where they had an “American Idol” singing venue. I sang “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” The mechanical Simon said it was “amazing.” Then he added “amazingly awful.”
That was funny. Our boys loved laughing and mocking me with Simon. But often comparison isn’t funny. In fact, it can be highly demoralizing. Comparison crushes.
Have you experienced how comparison crushes? Maybe you were judged:
I’ve compared my talents, income, IQ, popularity, home, career, success, children, even my spirituality, and felt like a loser on most all counts.
Why do I subject myself to the pain of comparison? The same reason you do. It is human nature to compare—a temptation that is part of the Curse; it’s the curse of comparison. And comparison crushes.
God’s Word says: “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.” (Galatians 6:4 NLT)
How Comparison Crushes
I’ve seen three major problems when I compare:
1. When I Compare, I Live in Discontent
When I compare, I rot inside just like Proverbs 14:30 describes, “A relaxed attitude lengthens a man’s life; jealousy rots it away.” (TLB)
Comparison and jealousy rot us as they bring discontent, bitterness, unhappiness, depression, and anger.
I’ve found that to be joyful, I must do as Hebrews 13:5 instructs, “…be content with what you have…” (NIV)
King Saul went bonkers with comparison and jealousy. In those days, people expected their king to lead his army into battle. Saul should have been the one to fight Goliath, but instead he let a young shepherd named David face the giant.
When David defeated Goliath, the Israelites routed the Philistines. Then “The women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes. As they danced, they sang: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.’ Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David” (1 Samuel 18:6b-9).
We don’t know the melody of this song, but we can guess what it sounded like to Saul. It sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard. Like “na, na, na, na, na, na.” This comparison nearly drove him insane. For the rest of his life Saul chased David, trying to murder him.
David was one of the best things that ever happened to Saul. Yet jealous comparison drove him to near insanity.
2. When I Compare, I Usually Major on Minors
When we compare, we usually compare unimportant items of fortune, fame and physical features. If someone has all three, we almost see them as gods.
A tourist visiting Beverly Hills went into a drugstore to buy an ice cream cone. Unexpectedly, in walked the movie star, Paul Newman, who got in line right behind her. The woman was star struck, but she was determined to keep her composure and “be cool.”
She ordered her ice cream cone, paid for it, and then exited the drug store.
However, when outside, she realized she wasn’t holding her ice cream cone.
After waiting a moment to gain composure, she went back to get it. However, she found that the little round holder on the counter was empty. Perplexed, she felt a gentle tap on her shoulder. Turning around, Paul Newman said, “Excuse me, but if you’re looking for your ice cream cone, you put it in your purse!”
While I laugh at the woman, I’ve had to admit my own celebrity-itis. Years ago, I stopped looking at People magazine, because I was lusting. It wasn’t sexual lust, but lust over the fame, fortune and features of the celebrities in the glossy photos and articles. When I compared them to me, I became dissatisfied and ungrateful.
The Lord warns against an overemphasis on these three minors:
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:10)
While not condemning wealth, Scripture cautions, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5)
We seem to think that notoriety equals value. Many even admire outlaws of the Old West and gangsters of the 1930’s simply because of their renown—certainly it’s not because of their character, godliness or contributions to society!
When we honor celebrity above Christlikeness, we become like those Jesus condemned in John 12:43, “…for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.”
Fame must not be our goal. In fact, Jesus clearly warned, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you.” (Luke 6:26a)
Proverbs gives this solution, “It is dangerous to be concerned with what others think of you, but if you trust the LORD, you are safe.” (Proverbs 29:25 GN)
We look at gorgeous and handsome celebrities and then look in the mirror and ask, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”
The mirror responds, “It sure ain’t you!”
We need to remember David’s exclamation, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”(Psalm 139:13-14a)
God oversaw the formation of our nose, eyes, ears, height, natural size and shape. He chose the color of our hair, skin and eyes. All these were fashioned by our loving Heavenly Father and He thinks we are gorgeous just how He designed us!
Carolyn and I have three sons. After the birth of our middle son, my sister called to congratulate us and asked what he looked like. I candidly responded that he looked a lot like Yoda from Star Wars. He had a wrinkled round face with big ears and a mostly bald head with hairs sticking out here and there.
To anyone else, he probably looked homely and funny. But to his parents, he was beautiful! Likewise, our Heavenly Father thinks we look terrific just the way He made us. Who are we to disagree?
3. When I Compare, I Always Lose
When I compare, I lose, whether I come up on the long or short end. There’s no winning with comparison:
If I think I’m better, I become arrogant.
It’s good to excel. Yet, if we compare our accomplishments to others, we may conclude that we’re better. That often leads to pride.
The Scripture warns us that, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”(Proverbs 16:18) And, “People who are proud will soon be disgraced. It is wiser to be modest.”(Proverbs 11:2 GN)
Once again, comparison crushes.
I love to play basketball for recreation and exercise. But my strong temptation is to be prideful if I win and bummed if my team loses. Therefore, I’ve benefited from the advice of legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. He instructed his players not to be so concerned with the score of a game—which he considered a distraction.
Instead, he insisted that the only important thing was that they play to the best of their ability. He writes in his book Wooden, “Did I win? Did I lose? Those are the wrong questions. The correct question is; did I make my best effort? That’s what matters. The rest of it just gets in the way.”
The result was incredible success—ten NCAA championships in 12 years, including seven in a row. Amazing.
On the other hand, if I think I’m worse, I often become despondent.
Because of my many failures, I’ve often felt inferior and unacceptable. If I dwell on these experiences, I can get depressed. In this way also, comparison crushes.
This is both painful and unbiblical. Galatians 6:4-5 says, “Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.”
God says that I should look at myself, not others. The only thing that matters is that I do my best to serve God in a godly way. What others do is between them and God.
Note in this verse that we can have a sense of proper pride based on our own potential, not on comparison with others. Our pride should come from godly qualities, like biblical obedience, love, and service for Christ.
Check out my next article for tips on how to overcome the curse of comparison.
Additional resources about related subjects on this site:
Video vlog: Have You Been Pecked At?
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