You may have heard the old Pinterest saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
(I’m totally kidding – it’s a quote by Theodore Roosevelt I found on Pinterest.)
I want to take that sentiment to a new level and get really real with you.
Comparison itself isn’t the thief of joy.
The enemy, the prince of this world, the father of lies… Satan himself is the thief.
And believe me – he’s out to steal more than our joy.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” — John 10:10 (NLT)
There are two distinct parts to that verse, and it’s important to grasp both:
- “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy [you].” Evil is very real – and Satan literally wants you dead. He will use any means necessary, but comparison is one of his favorite ways to bore deep into and harden your heart. He will use comparison to try to destroy you. No joke.
- God wants exactly the opposite for you and your life. Jesus came to this world and sacrificed everything so that you may have life to the fullest in Him. And even now, He wants to give you more of Himself, more of His Kingdom, more of everything good.
My Comparison Story
The first time I spoke about comparison, it was to a group of teenagers at Mount Vernon High School — the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). I was absolutely terrified.
You see, I didn’t quite fit the FCA mold as a teen. I was an uncoordinated loner who really struggled with my faith. My track record insists I’m the least qualified person on Earth to give advice to teens — especially about the dangers of comparison.
Lucky for me, God is known for calling the less-than-qualified to do big things in His name. And He led me to share my story with them.
I transferred schools my sophomore year of high school, and I didn’t have many close friends. I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. So, I did whatever I could to “connect” with people.
Every group of so-called “friends” – I found them.
Every wrong decision — I made it.
(I won’t go into gory detail, but let’s just say my life was not worth imitating.)
Every hurtful habit, every harmful hangup – I fell into it all so easily. I desperately wanted to belong.
But no matter how hard I tried, I just didn’t fit in. I was bullied, betrayed and emotionally abused. I was never thin enough, smart enough, pretty enough, fast enough, funny enough, good-girl enough, bad-girl enough, strong enough… and even if I was halfway decent at something, there was ALWAYS someone who was better, making me feel unworthy, obsolete.
I had no idea who I was. I was lost, depressed. I based my identity and my personal worth on how I measured up compared to others. I tried to shape that false identity around the approval and acceptance of all the wrong people. And it left me disenchanted and broken for a very long time.
I went through secular counseling, I was put on experimental anti-depressants for a time – and I was finally hospitalized for attempted suicide at just 15 years old.
Satan LITERALLY used comparison to try to kill me.
So perhaps you better understand now why I was a little freaked out over speaking to a group teens. I honestly considered titling my message, “Whatever You Do, Kids — Don’t Be Like Me!” But even in my insecurity, God revealed a message of hope for them – one I needed to hear for myself, too.
Note to friends and family reading this for the first time: I apologize if I knocked you for a loop. But part of walking in the light is full disclosure — being very real about the hurt in my life in order to give hope to people who are hurting today. My God is a God of restoration and He has made me new, against all odds. Thank you for your understanding, love and support.
Envy vs. Jealousy: A Deeper Look into Comparison
“When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him.
But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.” — Matthew 13:53-57 (NIV)
What’s the difference between envy and jealousy?
- Envy is when you want what someone else has.
- Jealousy is when you’re worried someone’s trying to take what you have.
And both can make you feel inadequate. Envy and jealousy both play a part when we compare ourselves to others, usually leading our thoughts and hearts in one of two directions: 1. Offense, or 2. Arrogance.
Offense is often called “The Bait of Satan” – a Christian author named John Bevere wrote a bestselling book about it. It’s a hardcore topic that far too few Christians are willing to wrestle with.
Be honest — have you ever had a friend succeed, and deep down, you wish it were you instead? Did it hurt you? Did it make you angry, sad, confused or resentful – even for a split second?
Satan will use that envy as bait to foster offense in you. And when offense takes root in your heart, all kinds of unhealthy thoughts and behaviors can rise up.
But comparison doesn’t just lead to offense. It can lead to arrogance – to pride. Proverbs 3:34 says, “God resists the proud, but shows favor to those who are humble.” He actually resists the proud.
Comparison resulting in arrogance can make us feel jealous and fearful – worried others will try to take what we have or take credit for our accomplishments.
Even worse, when through comparison we realize that we’re superior to someone else, it’s easy to allow that “I’m better than you” attitude to take root – when in fact, God calls us to love and bless people with our gifts, not hold them underfoot.
That’s why it’s so important to take ahold of envious, jealous, insecure thoughts and feelings and deal with them immediately – we have to recognize them for the lies they are.
Come Against Comparison for Lasting Joy
We’ve explored the nature of the enemy – that he’s literally out to seek, kill and destroy you, by any means necessary. We’ve explored the dangers of comparison – and how Satan can use it to bore into and harden your heart. I want to circle back now with that message of hope I promised you.
Jesus has given you power and authority against the thief of joy.
Jesus came and conquered death so that you may have life, and have it to the fullest. But it’s so much more than more than charity – it’s full-on adoption! As believers, we are God’s beloved sons and daughters. We have a new identity in Him.
And out of that identity we are given power and authority against the enemy. It’s true! We can learn to discern the enemy’s lies about comparison and come against those lies in Jesus’ name. (If you’re not sure how to do that yet, here’s a good place to start.) Then we can rest in our identity and seek the approval of the One who really matters — the God of Hope who restores our joy.
When you feel the pull toward comparison, I encourage you to remember who you are in Christ. You are accepted. You are secure. You are significant and intensely loved. You are already more than enough.