In my youth, friends were as ephemeral as mayflies. They’d last for a little while until my friends discovered someone cooler, and then I’d be alone again. Lunchtimes became my enforced quiet time because the only thing worse than being on my own was being on my own whilst watching my classmates laugh and enjoy each other’s company. I’d walk to the back of the school where no one could see me and watch the wind swirl through the palm trees as the cars zoomed by and tears stung my eyes.
Recently, I introduced an old friend to a relatively new friend. The latter one’s friendship was one that made me proud — I couldn’t believe we were actually friends! But within minutes of the two of them getting to know each other, I felt like I was eleven again. All the insecurities of my youth flooded me. Suddenly, all I could focus on was how much funnier, brighter, smarter, and more thoughtful she was. I felt self-conscious, paralyzed by the fear of being left alone again.
I kept thinking to myself, Straighten up, Sequeira! Stop comparing yourself! Stop thinking about yourself! But I couldn’t tighten the reins and stop those wild stallion thoughts. Over the next few days, the constant loop of comparison left me exhausted. I became so intimidated by my friend that I stopped speaking altogether.
I’m outmatched. I see the writing on the wall. I should bow out gracefully.
The same muscle I use to compare myself in friendships is the one I use on a near daily basis, comparing myself to other chefs, mothers, TV personalities, believers, and wives. And more often than not, I find myself deeply wanting and retreat into myself.
I don’t think I’m alone. Over the past few years, I’ve seen multiple Instagram graphics advising me that “comparison is the thief of joy” or to stop playing the “compare and despair” game. The only way out of the cycle, they suggest, is to simply stop comparing ourselves to others altogether.
I don’t know about you, but that advice hasn’t worked for me. It strikes me as a little flip, as if stopping this behaviour is just that easy. Perhaps comparing ourselves isn’t the problem. Perhaps it’s more about whom we compare ourselves to and for what reason.
For example, I wouldn’t be half the cook and judge I am today if I didn’t watch, evaluate, and compare myself to my colleagues very intently. They inspire my hands, palate, and mind. When I worked in the newsroom, I compared my news stories to those of fellow journalists. I learned how to ascertain the veracity of a story, how to write with more accuracy and brevity. Heck, we learned how to walk, talk, eat, drink, love, fight, share, and build by comparing ourselves to our mother and father figures, to our siblings, and to people on TV.
My theory is that comparison is inherent to human nature. But as with everything else in this world, comparison can be used for good or for evil.
Ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, every human has felt a distinct less-than-ness. Human history is built on our effort to fill in that gap with achievement, wealth, love, religion, power, and acceptance from others. But perhaps what we’re really striving for is perfection.
Jesus told us, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 NASB).
We were made in the image of God, that is, in the image of perfection. The standard for perfection was set by God, via the Law, and we were made to meet that standard. But we don’t, and the only one who ever did was Jesus.
When we compare ourselves to each other, we use earthly things to fill a divinely-hewn hole; they can never fully satisfy the emptiness. And so, if I’m going to compare myself to anyone, let it be with Perfection Himself — Jesus! When I turn my eyes to Him, when I compare my actions and reactions to His, a miraculous thing happens. Look at 2 Corinthians 3:18, with me:
But we all, with unveiled faces, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the LORD, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory . . .
Fixing our eyes on Christ transforms us into His likeness — hallelujah! The more we compare ourselves to Christ, the more we long to be like Him. We rip our old muscles in order to build new, stronger ones. Our imperfections glare in the light of His perfection and shrink in the warmth of His embrace.
After that incident with my two friends, I decided that whenever I’m tempted to compare myself, I will stop and take a breath. Instead of retreating inward, I will look up and see that my worth — as a friend, as a chef, as a mom or a wife — comes from the One who loves me. Instead of coveting the way God made someone else, I will name the ways God made me and praise Him for it.
And instead of placing too much emphasis on what people think of me, I will rest in knowing that He, whose opinion is paramount, already thinks I’m the bees’ knees and rejoices over me with singing! Instead of trying to quash my instincts to compare myself to others, I will compare myself to Perfection Himself. In doing so, I pray that His sweet correction will right the wrong perspectives of my heart and reassure me that even in my brokenness, He will use what could have been used for evil and transform it for good.Leave a Comment