The Art of Comparison

By Madi McGraw
In Formed
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Comparison is one of those words that immediately draws up this ugly feeling in our guts, right? We have all felt the rush of dissatisfaction with our own stories when we set them down next to someone else’s only to find them doing “better than” or maybe just “better off.” Whether it is a co-worker, a mentor, an influencer on social media, or even a dear friend that appears to be closer to where we want to be, or who we want to be, we have undoubtedly felt envy, pride, covetousness, and self-pity in the wake of Comparison.

It is easy to point at Comparison and blame it for constantly tearing at our contentment. For this reason, we have allowed it to be deemed the great Joy Stealer. We treat Comparison like a thief we can keep out by putting an extra lock on our self-made confidence and declaring that we will simply not compare ourselves to anyone. We set our shoulders and say, “You do you, I’ll do me, and neither of us will feel bad or worry about one of us doing ‘better’ than the other. Surely this will do the job of squashing out that ugly feeling in our guts.”

But here’s the thing, we can’t just stop comparing. In fact, we shouldn’t. Comparison is not the thief of joy as Teddy Roosevelt once claimed. (Yeah, you heard me. That little proverb is not from the Bible. I was surprised too.) Instead, the Art of Comparison is actually part of our God-given nature as humans. However, like so many good gifts from God, it can be twisted by the enemy in an effort to bring out something undesirable in us. We were created with the ability to compare and contrast in order to discover holiness and to understand what we should be like as we pursue lives modeled after Christ. To squash Comparison out of our lives is to hinder our growing understanding of God and of ourselves. Dear friends, we cannot stop comparing, but we can reclaim it as a holy tool for refinement.

What if the next time you witness others excelling in their stories (while maybe you are scraping by in yours), and instead of ignoring it, you honored them? Do not let the moment go unnoticed! Give thanks to God for their obedient heart, diligent work, and example of Christ that you can now follow. What if then you started making more comparisons rather than less, so that you could observe and understand the principles of godliness present in their practices?

Comparison, when positioned in the direction of Holy imitation, is no longer about despairing at all the ways you don’t “measure up” to your neighbor. It is about seeing and celebrating the Christlike characteristics they have applied to their lives and figuring out how to apply them to yours. The Art of Comparison was not given to us so that we might all look identical, but to enable us, amid our differences, to walk together in pursuit of the individual stories God is calling us to live out.

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