“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” – Philippians 2:3
Do you ever find yourself staring wistfully at photos on Facebook or Insta, admiring so-and-so’s gorgeous, clean house; smiling, well-groomed family; bikini-ready body; or the fifth destination vacation they’ve taken this year? (I mean, are they really on vacation again??) I don’t know about you, but when I see those pics, I start feeling like… less. My house isn’t that clean, big, or tastefully decorated. My kids are smiling but generally wearing second-hand clothes that have some food slathered across them (hence the need to wear second-hand clothes). My body? No 6-pack abs for this woman. If I’m not careful, my envy can get out of control and stop the flow of gratitude and joy in my life, and our gratitude level is in direct proportion to how well we can overflow to others.
Before we begin, it’s imperative to recognize the soul-crushing variety of comparison I’m referring to in this post is made up of three components; I’ve supplied the Oxford Dictionary’s definition for each, below:
- Envy – “a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck,” – or, a lack of appreciation for the blessings God gave you, or lacking trust for where He’s placed you in life.*
- Pride – “A feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements,” – or, taking credit for the things God has done in your life, essentially telling Him you don’t think you need Him.*
- Competition (definition provided is for “Compete”) – “Strive to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others who are trying to do the same.” a.k.a. the need to separate yourself from someone by proving you are better than them.
All three of these mindsets veer us off the path God designated for us. For God to work in our lives, we must be grateful for the things He blessed us with and steward them to the best of our ability, regardless of how our blessings appear in comparison to someone else’s. This also requires us to trust God’s promise for us from Jeremiah 29:11:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
This verse means that God will use our circumstances for your good – if we let Him. You thwart His work in your lives when you allow yourself to be consumed by jealousy because we aren’t trusting Him and we become blind to His work. If we allow the bitterness of envy to corrupt our hearts, we end up dumping his blessings right back out as he tries to fill our cups, effectively tossing them right back in His face. When we get caught up in our pride and attempt to manhandle our circumstances of our own volition, and we unwittingly fill our cups in with a hardened darkness that blocks God from pouring into us and keeps us from finding joy in life. We often end up with messes only God can pull us out of because our pride separates us from God and the people in our lives.
Finally, competition sets us against each other, forcing us to want to exceed someone’s capabilities or resources, solely for the sake of winning and to assuage our own pride. It makes us want to assert ourselves as better than, and we often do so at the expense of the other person as we seek to glorify ourselves, rather than God. Competition demonstrates your capability, but it dams your overflow because, thanks to your ignorance and ego, it keeps you separated, and then you start to lord it over others and hoard it.
“For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.” – 2 Corinthians 10:12
So how do we overcome the dam of comparison and reclaim our joy? First, we need to celebrate one another’s successes! God has enough blessing to go around, but he has different paths for all of us and blesses us according to the works he has set out for us. We need to value, elevate, and support each other as we walk, including ourselves on our own walks. We also need to trust in God and get excited about the multitude of creative ways he uses other people and recognize he is using us, too.
Next, we must recognize that 90% of the time, the snapshot successes we see in our feeds are only that person’s best moments, edited to look even better than their reality. They don’t reflect their day-to-day life or the complete picture of it – the ups, the downs, the hopes, the crushed dreams, or the heartaches. When you view these snapshots as truth and doubt yourself, you can start to feel too self-conscious to do the work God set before you and begin to dam your overflow.
Finally, seek out all the ways God has blessed you in your own life. You can do this by making a list and adding to it daily, or by thanking God out loud for different elements in your life as you pray. Every act of gratitude removes a brick from the dam and increases your joy. In the examples from the intro, when comparison sets in, I thank God for the roof over my head, my beautiful, happy, well-loved children, my big-hearted husband, and my beautiful body that functions precisely as it should.
The ability to recognize our blessings is a skill that we often need to develop, one best done with daily practice. I promise you, if you strengthen your gratitude muscle daily, it gets easier and easier to recognize God moving in your life – especially in the smaller ways or more difficult moments. When you realize a relationship, situation, circumstance, or task is a blessing, regardless of the “perfection” of its status, it’s easier to appreciate and steward it. Gratitude and a willingness to wait for God are the keys to dismantling the dam of comparison and unleashing your overflow.
Is something damming your overflow, or have you overcome your own dam? If so, I would love to hear from you please share your story in the comments below! Community starts with us. Let’s show other women out there, they’re not alone.
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*I cannot remember where I heard the concepts about how pride and envy relate to comparison before, but to give credit where it is due, someone awesome said it in passing and then I expanded and added onto it.
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