Caught in Comparison: Journey to Simplicity Ch.2

“In the south you dress right.   Their customs run deeeeep, and you don’t mess with them…I was headed to a region where I once overhead this dialogue:

‘So, are you a Christian?’  ‘No, I’m a Southern Baptist.’

Okay then…

I wore my Haiti T-shirt on Friday night, and…my first sentence was a description of 7 with a What-was-I-supposed-to-do? reference to my outfit.  I couldn’t help it.  Okay, I could help it, but I had a social compulsion to defend myself, utterly vain and reminiscent of middle school.

Blame it on the Deep South.  Blame it on my need for approval.

I blamed it on ‘respect for my audience,’ but that may or may not be genuine…But just as quickly as the insecurity wave crested, it receded, because we opened up God’s Word and let it speak.”

As Jen Hatmaker recounted this experience in 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, I thought of the times in my life when I felt compelled to explain myself.  Jen was speaking at a women’s ministry event in Atlanta, and because she committed to wearing only 7 items of clothing for the entire month, she had few choices about what to wear for a two-day speaking engagement.

Feeling underdressed when she took the stage, she began explaining why she was dressed in such a way; she had a “compulsion to defend” herself.

Me too.

My decisions, my opinions, my past, my future, my purchases, my [insert just about anything here]…I feel as if I need to explain.  And while I only feel compelled to explain to people I care about (usually), I still feel as if I have to answer to …everyone.

For example, I am in the process of moving.  My husband and I feel this is God’s will for our family and our finances.  The process so far has been super easy.  Our house sold in two weeks; we bought the only house we looked at for a low, low price.  See?  Explaining.

Why do I/we feel compelled to explain?  Justify?  I used to think that justification only came when we thought we were wrong or sorta wrong.

I don’t believe that anymore.

We can fully believe we are absolutely correct, but still justify and rationalize our decisions to others.

Moving, homeschooling, quitting my job, training for a half marathon, blogging, volunteering at my church and on and on.  My explanations play like a broken record in my head.

Why?  Comparison and need for approval. When I compare myself to others, I then feel compelled to defend how and why my choices are different from or better than theirs because I need their approval.  Sigh…..

God has been revealing my penchant for comparing myself to others for a few months…ok, maybe a few years, but I was an unwilling participant until a few months ago.   My self-thought goes something like this, “I’d love to ______, but I could never do _______ as well as my friend, ________. So I won’t try/volunteer.”

I compare myself to others too much.  And, in each case, I come up woefully short or awesomely above.  Neither is healthy or Godly.

There’s no win in comparison …ever.  (I stole this line from Andy Stanley’s sermon series The Comparison Trap.  I encourage you to listen to the series if you struggle with comparison- i.e. everyone.)

How do we get over and past the comparison trap? Take a page from Jen’s book:

“But just as quickly as the insecurity wave crested, it receded, because we opened up God’s Word and let it speak.”

Let God’s speak:

Ephesians 3:16-19:  16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Romans 8: 38-39 says 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

He loves me – just as I am – widely and deeply.  I am who He made me to be.  I don’t need to be anyone else.  He empowers me with the inner strength I need to resist sin through his Spirit.  Nothing can separate me from His love.

For me it all boils down to this:

“The average human gets around twenty-five thousand days on this earth, and most of us in the United States of America will get a few more.  That’s it.  This life is a breath.  Heaven is coming fast, and we live in that thin space where faith and obedience have relevance.  We have this one life to offer; there is not second chance, no Plan B for the good news.  We get one shot at living to expand the kingdom, fighting for justice.  We’ll stand before Jesus once, and none of our luxuries will accompany us.  We’ll have one moment to say, ‘This is how I lived.’  More than 13,000 of those days are over for me.”

Me too.  13,233 days to be exact.  At least half my life is gone.

Do I really want to live the remaining day or 13,000 days comparing myself to anyone except Jesus?  Worrying about what I wear?  From what store is comes?  And all that shallow garbage?

What a waste that would be.

As millions around the world go without basic necessities, I am busy saving for Buckle jeans because K-mart ones aren’t good enough?

Puh-leez!

Are you caught in the comparison trap too?  Even just a little?  I am praying that you break free. He has so much more for each of us.

 

Comments

  1. Oooh, this is good stuff!! So challenging!! Thank you, Sarah.

    • You’re welcome! God is revealing much to me during this read-a-long. Sometimes the challenges and revelations stink, but I know that he refines for His glory:)

  2. I don’t think I ever thought about how much I explain about myself (or my husband) until I read your post. But, I know I do. I can picture myself doing it right now. And I have one person in my life in particular who asks questions that I’m not necessarily comfortable answering. But, you know what? I still answer!!! I’ve started wondering, why don’t I just say I’d rather not answer that question, instead of taking the joy of rambling on about myself and then later regretting it?

    I don’t want to write an entire blog post in your comment section, but I’ve noticed I sometimes worry too much what people I don’t even like think of me. Why is that???

    Thanks for the link, I’m gonna check it out.

    • I, too, have a person in my life that I continually use as my “gauge” – and I dont really like her that much! Crazy! I think the first time you look her in the eye and say, “I’d rather not answer that” or “I’m uncomfortable talking about that kind of thing” – you will feel empowered to let go of any expectations she places on you. It’s often that first courageous choice that’s the hardest, but once you stand, it gets progressively easier. I’d also say…pray. Pray for the situation, your heart, the other person’s heart. I often think we worry too much about what others think – especially those we don’t like – because we feel deep down that life is some kind of competition to have the best life, best husband with the best job, and the best kids. And, we don’t really like the other person(s) because they’re our competition or foe. So, simply by comparing and competing, you’re setting your heart up to dislike them. I do that EXACT thing…and I’m praying God will teach me to focus on what HE thinks, not others:)

  3. thanks for the link – i very much compare myself to others in so many different ways. i wonder sometimes if God is ever sad that He worked so hard making variety and we spend our time working towards sameness.

    • Brooke…thanks for your insight…when I read “I wonder if God is ever sad that He worked so hard making variety and we spend our time working towards sameness” – it was as if a light went off. The God of the Universe made me – just as I am – for HIS purposes to fulfill HIS plan. So, when I measure myself with a human ruler and not a God ruler, it’s essentially a lack of trust and faith on my part…I don’t trust or have faith in how he has made me, so I check out others to gain worth. I still want to ponder your thought more, but I really appreciate the food for thought!

  4. Me too. Maybe not clothes but in so many other ways. Great insight!

    • Thanks, Lori:) I don’t think clothes is a huge hangup for me either. But, every time I turn around, I feel like I’m comparing. I can’t seem to make a decision without taking a poll! Really hoping to have a break through in this area.

  5. Julie Wagner says:

    Wow, Sarah, what a wonderful post. You truly have a gift for putting feelings into words. I compare myself to others 24 hours a day/7 days a week. I don’t even realize I’m doing it until I think about it afterwards. Your blogs have blessed me today. Thanks so much. As you know, I’ve also been in a fog, but now I will look through it differently. God Bless!

    • You’re welcome, Julie! I think resting in the FOG – the Favor of God – is a process. He changes our hearts slowly but surely, so we don’t forget any part of the lesson:)

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