The Comparison Trap

Why are their lives always better than mine?

Why can’t I be happy like everyone else?

Why are they so much better than me at everything?

Have you ever had these thoughts and felt inferior to others in some aspect or another? When we were young, this could come in the form of comparison over simple things like the size of your ice cream compared to your sibling’s. Yet as we grow older, life become more complicated and we start worrying about matters such as materialistic wealth and possessions, character traits, or external appearance. So often I feel like I am entangled in an endless cycle of comparing everything that I have to the conditions of everyone around me. These thoughts are very toxic and dangerous, and leave me feeling depressed, worthless, incompetent and empty.

Comparison is a trap. When we don’t measure up to others, we feel lacking in these shortcomings and are envious of the ‘potentials’. Yet when the comparison is favourable to ourselves, we are trapped by arrogance and pride, and at times delight in the misfortunes of others. Either way, this comparison trap is a battle which we cannot win.

The easiest solution to this battle is to ‘simply not take part in it’. Yet, our bodies are corrupted by sin and we are naturally inclined to these sinful and disruptive thoughts. I still struggle with these thoughts and feelings, and have accepted that I will likely fight this battle for the rest of my life. However by the grace of God, I have come to realise that there are different ways to mitigate its effects through assurance in God’s commands, words and promises.

Different Gifts

In Romans 12:6-8, Paul talks about how each and every one of us possesses different gifts and abilities given to us by God, and it is these differences that make up the Church family. As such, we are God’s handiwork who are created to carry out different functions for the same goal that God has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10). God has already prepared tasks for those that love Him and wish to serve Him (1 Corinthians 2:9-10), so why should we continue to desire for materialistic possessions which others may have? Comparison will only eat away at the intended purposes and gifts which God has given to us.

The Rich Fool

Comparison is a bottomless pit; there will always be someone with more things than you and there will always be someone else envying you. In the pursuit of accumulating more and catching up to what everyone else has, we often forget our real purpose in life as Christians. Luke 12:13-21 accounts Jesus telling the story of the rich fool who accumulated so much harvest that he believed he could take it easy for the rest of his life. Yet that very night, his life was taken away from him, thereby rendering all the wealth that he had accumulated meaningless. This parable depicts the pointless pursuit of accumulating wealth when it isn’t put to good use for God’s glory. Instead, what we should do is work with what God has already entrusted to us and fulfil our roles; God doesn’t ask people to change what they have been given, but to use what they have been given. So, one day when God calls you home and asks for an account of all that you have done, will you regret living a life of vanity in pursuit of materialism, or can you be assured that you have fulfilled the things he entrusted to you?

What we can do about it

Something that I find quite helpful to dissolve the lingering feelings of comparison is to pray to God about at least three things that I am thankful for. It helps me realise all the blessings that I have been gifted, and allows me to be grateful for what I already have instead of focus on what others have or don’t have. Furthermore, we should also pray to God about the desires that we have in envy or pride. It may be difficult to confess such thoughts, but God is the only One who can sustain and deliver us from these sinful desires. When I reflect on my personal life, I realise that I often find myself envying the lifestyles of my non-Christian friends. My natural inclination continues to drift towards my sinful desires away from God; however when this happens, I am reminded of God’s grace and mercy towards me. Just as Mark 8:36 illustrates: What use is it if I gain everything that I want, but in the process sacrifice my relationship with God? Because of His grace and mercy, I rest assured that even though I will continue to struggle with this for the rest of my life, He will guide and sustain me through all my struggles and brokenness.

by Morning Yang