“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt
My six-year-old computer was slowly dying. Even after deleting all unnecessary programs and files and using the system clean up tools, it was still intolerably pokey. It took so long to warm up that, after hitting the “on” button, I could make a bed, empty the dishwasher, and take a five-minute nap before it was completely loaded and functional. It was time to do some comparison shopping. Comparison is beneficial when purchasing a new computer; in real life circumstances, comparison can often either make us feel defeated or prideful.
It all begins early. The two-year-old child gets a new baby brother. Suddenly, he compares the time Mommy and Daddy spend with him to time spent with the baby and life seems grossly unfair.
The five-year-old wants a battery-operated Barbie car just like her friend down the block. She feels deprived when her mommy says they can’t afford it.
The ten-year-old compares his clumsy effort at soccer and he feels defeated because he wants to be like his teammate who scores big at every game. The skilled teammate shows haughtiness and considers himself a notch above the other members.
Miss Popular Preppie, who runs the Eighth Grade click, gets puffed up when she compares her charm and good looks to plain Peggy with the acne and stringy hair.
The high school senior feels cheated as he compares his buddy’s brand new Mustang to his rusted out truck with a whole in the muffler.
The young mother compares her special needs son, who struggles with homework until 10:00 p.m. to her sister’s boy who gets straight “As” and barely cracks a textbook at night.
And, she asks, “How did we get so blessed?”
The single woman flaunts her freedom as she compares herself to the married woman with six kids; the married woman envies the freedom of her single friend.
Older adults compare their illnesses, financial status, and the accomplishments of their children and grandchildren. Whether measuring something better or worse against our own situation, comparison is a joy robber.
The truth is that, in comparing, we only get a tiny snapshot view which reveals very little. First impressions often lie. Once years ago, I was the victim of an unfair comparison. Stopping at a grocery store dressed in a suit after a hard nine-hour day at work, my goal was to get in and out of the store rapidly, make a quick dinner at home, and get to an evening meeting.
There was only one checkout lane in operation and I was third in line with two others in back of me. A young gentleman opened the next lane and I thought he looked directly at me as he said,
“Can I help you over here?”
As I headed over to the next lane the lady in front of me, who was about to be served by the clerk in our lane, jumped ahead of me. With fire in her eyes and in a loud store-wide voice she yelled…
“Just because you are dressed in a three-piece suit, you think you get to go first?”
Her judgment and her snapshot view of me were based solely on my attire. Little did she know that, inwardly, I was falling apart. That day, my business had lost a major contract and personally I was in the midst of a mental-health crises with my daughter. To this woman, the grass looked greener in my life compared to hers, but she had merely a snapshot view.
A friend of mine, Nancy Anderson, wrote the book Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome-How to grow Affair-Proof Hedges Around Your Marriage. In the book she explains how she nearly destroyed her marriage by comparing her husband to a male co-worker. She liked the attention received from this new guy and compared it to the criticism and control she felt from her husband. The grass looked greener but it really wasn’t. By the grace of God through the good advice of her earthly father, she came to her senses. Fortunately, in the end, her marriage was restored and her joy returned.
Thankfulness and gratitude can heal the soul sickness of comparison. Being content in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in results in a joyful and peace-filled life.
When the grass appears greener on the other side of the fence, it’s time to fertilize and water our own grass!