When You Stop Comparing, and Start Living Your One Beautiful Life

August 30, 2013 | 48 comments

I was twelve years old, sitting on the curb with my friend. It was so hot that the road’s tar bubbled up around our flip-flopped feet.

I don’t remember what had made me so sad that day, to prompt this curbside meeting. But I do remember how bad it hurt on my insides, like my heart was going to burst. My ears and throat burned the way they do sometimes, in that moment immediately before your tears spill over. I wiped my cheek with the back of my hand, and started to tell my friend about whatever was troubling me that day.

“Oo-OOOO-ooo,”  she interrupted me. “Sounds like trouble in paradise. It’s about time.”

I remember how she rolled her eyes, and how her blonde ponytail jiggled when she shook her head back and forth.

I stopped talking.

Comparison had swooped in like a vulture, and snatched my voice. I went home with my tears and my shame and with double the pain, and I wondered what paradise was anyway? Because the burn in my throat still seared when I buried my head in my pillow.

My friend saw only the outside of my life, only the parts that looked like some version of paradise. The truth is, I did grow up in the biggest house in our town of 350 souls; it was an old three-story house built in 1902. My mom stayed home with us kids, and Dad had a good-paying job. We dressed nice, went to church every Sunday.  We gathered around the same dinner table almost every night, just after the 6 o’clock whistle blew from the top of the watertower. It wasn’t perfect, but to my friend, it looked like it.

She lived on the other side of the tracks, in a single-parent home. School was difficult for her, and her big brother was often in trouble with the law.

My friend often held her life up next to mine, and saw a trash heap next to a gold mine. And I can’t say for sure, but I walked away from the curb that day, believing that somewhere deep inside her, she felt a little bit better because I was hurting so badly.

* * * * *

I see curbs.

I see curbs on Facebook and at the city park. I sit on the curb of Facebook and the blogosphere and in churches and school gymnasiums and playdates in the park. It gets hot out there, where people’s envy bubbles up like tar. We’re comparing our waist sizes, square-footage, IQs, kids’ reports cards, approval ratings. Oh, it’s subtle, but it’s there.

Comparison is a quiet vulture, swooping in to eat our joy and our camaraderie and our witness to the world.

We compare our trash-heaps days, to someone’s paradaisical Facebook statuses. We might be tempted to roll our eyes at the precocious comments that some preschool mama quoted. Somewhere inside of us, we might be turning green with envy at another writer’s bestselling book,  a former colleague’s success in a new business venture, another couple’s second trip to the beach in a year.

When we compare and contrast, two people get hurt: the Compare-er and the Compare-ee.

1 – The Compar-er.

It’s easy for any of us to see how, in the end, comparison hurts our very own selves. Comparison is one of the biggest joy robbers and dream shredders in our own lives.

We can unzip our own hearts to see the residue of our own envy. We see how it can crush our own wilted identities. The Comparison Monster could force its ugly self smack-dab between us and whatever God is calling us to do: start a blog, write a song, lead a Bible study, apply for the promotion. Nothing will kill a dream faster than looking at the life of someone who’s already living your dream, then believing it’s too good for you.

If you can’t do it like her, why try?

Can’t blog like her? Forget it.

Can’t make a difference like your friend does? Throw in the towel.

How sad for you, and how sad for us. You are the only “you” the world gets. We need you to be you, in this one life you’ve been given. 

I’m not proud to admit that I’ve compared, and let dreams slide through my fingers. Comparison whispers that our efforts are worthless and our dreams are pointless. And it will suck the life right out of us.

2 — The Compare-ee.

Someone else always gets hurt when we compare, even if we think it’s a secret battle we’re having on the inside. It hurts the person who’s sitting on the other side of our envy. It creates an us-versus-them mentality that can rob the Body of Christ of its unity and fellowship. And it can open up doorways to petty criticisms of the person we believe is “living in paradise.”

This morning, I read in Psychology Today that when we feel inadequate, we  might try to protect our own self-worth by diminishing the work of the ones we envy. “You are engaged in devaluing when you have belittling thoughts about another person, such as petty criticisms.”

(And Scripture has a lot to say about it, too.)

Cheap shots are delivered. Snickering ensues. We might get annoyed at the Facebook posts of the person who ran another ten miles, lost another ten pounds, gained another ten followers. And when they’re not looking? We might try to knock them down about ten notches.

People: We’ve got to stop this. Life is not a competition. We’re actually all on the same team, and it’s called the Body of Christ. And no one is living in paradise, and we’re all living in a world where Jesus said it plain: “You will. have. trouble.” Jesus did not footnote any exceptions in the fine print. 

What if we started celebrating other’s victories, instead of trampling on their parades? What if we started living out God’s call on our lives, without worrying if we’ll measure up to some invisible standard? What if we picked up some pom-poms and cheered on our friends, instead of picking up sticks or stones?

What if we ditched the lists?

Any of us can look back on our childhood lives and remember the lists that shaped us: honor rolls published in the local paper, school-play casting calls, homecoming courts, birthday party invitations, and more. When we grow up, the lists grow up with us: the Fortune 500, the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World, the Top 100 Bloggers, the richest, the sexiest, the most relevant. Even Christian leaders have come up with online lists to tell us which authors are the most influential.

In a world of list makers, how can we begin to live only for the Maker’s list? 

What if we all linked hands and elbows, and sat on the curb of life, and brushed away each other’s tears, and squeezed each other’s hands, and cheered wildly when it went well, and cried a hot mess when it all fell apart, when there was “trouble in paradise.” What if we did that?

What if we sat at the curb, and we curbed our comparing? 

How much of our best selves do we leave for the vultures? We could spend our whole lives wishing for something different, … and then turn around to realize that we missed the “something different” we were created to live.

What if we kept our eyes on the incomparable God, our hearts in His inexhaustible love, and our feet rooted in His unfathomable grace?

I want me some of that — some incomparable joy. In the Now.

I am so in. I’m writing this because I’ll need to remember it. And maybe you do too?

There’s a spot on the curb right beside me.  I pledge this to you: I’ll never compare your beautiful life to mine, and I’ll never cut you down when you’re not looking.


“But in all this comparing and grading and competing, they quite miss the point.” ~ 2 Corinthians 10:12

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

 

Let’s not trample what we’ve been given in order to get to what we wish we’d got.  ~ Lisa-Jo Baker

 

“When the Lord makes it clear you’re to follow Him in this new direction, focus fully on Him and refuse to be distracted by comparisons with others.” ~ Chuck Swindoll

 

“The problem with comparison is that you always feel either better than someone else or worthless compared to someone else.” ~ Dillon Burroughs

 

“Follow me.” ~ Jesus Christ

 

 

Photo credits:
1- Thomas23 on Flickr
2 -Emily Carlin on Flickr

by | August 30, 2013 | 48 comments

48 Comments

  1. kazzeo

    Yes, we are all in the same team. I learnt team work. The hard way. Literally. I also did workshops on creating a human bridge with a certain number of people who could not step more than so many feet on the ground. Now when it’s six it’s hard. We had to work together with people we did not know from other elite sports.
    We are in the same team.
    Teamwork. This is what I’ve found. You have to make the effort, literally.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Kazzeo,

      You raise a good point. If we remember that we’re a team, we are more likely to work together, instead of in opposition or in competition. We’re working toward a common goal, rather than each man or woman for him/herself. Right?

      Reply
  2. daynad

    Jennifer, thanks for sharing your wisdom in such a beautiful, meaningful way. If each of us would only learn this critical lesson (once and for all)!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Dayna, for sitting at the curb with me today. God bless you!

      Reply
  3. Patricia @ Pollywog Creek

    Amen, sister! Preach it! This is why I don’t have a blog roll. It would break my heart to hurt someone’s feelings by not including them when we’re all in this together. Sisters! Let’s rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep and “spur each other on to love and good deeds”…and live the abundantly life right where God has planted us.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Ah, yes, the dreaded blog rolls. I took mine down too, for a similar reason. It breaks my heart when people feel left out, or like they don’t belong.

      Reply
  4. ro elliott

    Beautiful encouragement here….I let the vultures eat too long in my life ….age and a lot of God’s love has been setting me free…living in the what is…not dwelling on the what is not…and yes…Stop letting comparison rob me from seeing all God’s kindness and goodness He has given…even the ugly/beautiful….I want to sit on the curb next to you…and others shoulder to shoulder …enjoying the all the beauty among us.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Glad you’re right here, Ro. Always a place for you. And you’ve always made room for me. Thank you, friend.

      Reply
  5. Karmen

    I’m in! And not just because my blog has the word “curb” in it. : ) A much needed word for me today–thanks for posting.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Oh Karmen! Love it! I’ll be pulling up a chair to your curb soon. 🙂 Thanks for visiting mine.

      Reply
  6. Nancy Ruegg

    “Sit on the curb and curb the complaining.” What a great visual for the body of Christ! You’ve also given us rich food for thought: No one lives in paradise. We all have our troubles; they’re just different. Support and celebrate will work wonders among us, compared to criticize and devalue. Powerful writing, Jennifer!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      When we compare, we can idealize some people, to the point that we forget that they have a lot of the same hurts that we do. And that, in the end, hurts the body as a whole. Glad you’re here, Nancy. Scooting over to make room for you at the curb, my friend.

      Reply
  7. Amy Breitmann (@AmyBreitmann)

    This is poignant, real, and a message we all need to hear. Thank you, Jennifer. You have been a huge encouragement to me and so many others. Thank you for sitting on the “curb” with me.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I love sittin’ by you, Amy. You are such an encourager. Keep shining your beautiful light out on the Internets! 🙂

      Reply
  8. debyholtschlag

    I’m going to be sitting too, but can’t promise I won’t get up and leave at times. Comparison is one of my many weaknesses, but thankfully He is changing my heart, and I can promise – I will return! You asked, “In a world of list makers, how can we begin to live only for the Maker’s list?” – only when we focus, trust, and have faith in “WHOSE” we are, not who.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Gotta keep preaching the gospel to ourselves every day, Deby, so we don’t fall back. Comparison is so tempting. But I’m convinced that it really hurts both the compare-er and the compare-ee. And it also must break the heart of God, because it diminishes the gifts he had designed especially for each one of us. It’s like I’m saying to God: “Gee, thanks for this gift, I guess. But I really wanted what you gave Deby, or what you gave to Amy, or what you gave to Lisa.”

      I’m really glad you’re here today. Scootin’ up close to you on the curb, my friend.

      Reply
  9. Kris Camealy

    Beautiful encouragement here, Jennifer. I have read several posts just this week about comparison and I feel as if God is trying to remind me of this very thing you shared here. Thank you for such a solid reminder of where to focus, and how to really live this life. ((hugs))

    Reply
  10. Janet

    Hi Jennifer,
    You have an absolutely satisfying way with words – satisfying like eating that last piece of cold, juicy watermelon, or sipping that steaming cup of hot cocoa (funny how I think of food…). I wish we could all be in a place where no one second guessed a compliment, where envy and jealousy took a back seat to encouragement. “I want me some of that incomparable joy – ” Yup, me too! Thank you for taking on a difficult topic and putting such a personal face on it. I’d sit on the curb and listen to you any day. I hope you and your family have a wonderful and safe holiday weekend.
    Janet

    Reply
  11. Lisa Buffaloe

    I so needed this right now, sweet friend. So needed this.

    Thank you, Jennifer. I’m at the curb with you, squeezing your shoulder tight, saying “Thank you.”

    So very grateful for you.

    Love,

    Lisa

    Reply
  12. Hazel Irene Moon

    I am glad you took your pain home with you that day and did not share with your friend. She was a good friend never the less to sit with you on that curb!

    Reply
  13. Leah Colwell Adams

    Oh boy, I so get this. I’ve done the comparison thing way too often. Just when I get to where I think I won’t do it again. BAM! There that vulture is hovering overhead. So thankful that Jesus gives me do-overs. I, too, want that incomparable joy. Awesome post, Jennifer.

    Reply
  14. Dolly@Soulstops

    Dear Jennifer,
    I would be delighted to sit on that curb with you and Jesus. I imagine He would have his arms around both of us. Feel sad for 12 y/o you and for your friend, who probably didn’t have anyone to talk to about her pain. Hugs to you 🙂

    Reply
  15. Kathy Schwanke

    Wonderful true and beautifully written words Jennifer. Bringing truth to light via story. Like Jesus, you are! 🙂

    When that temptation comes, and it does…victory is in remembering there is an enemy who wants to divide us and steal from us and weaken us…that helps me remember to take the thoughts captive, that Satan wants us to be victims instead of victors. The battle rages and more-so with our vast celebration of celebrity and accomplishment in this land. {Not that it is bad, but it is so ‘out there’ as in the top lists and the headlines} We who are not of this world are always fighting worldly thinking.

    Thanks for strengthening my armor sister.

    Reply
  16. Karrilee Aggett

    Everything in me echoes a resounding Yes and Amen, sister! Yes – and so much Amen!

    Reply
  17. Vanderbilt Wife

    Jennifer, I believe I may go have a good cry over this. (It seems like I do that a lot lately …) I want to share your piece of curb so maybe you can tell me it’s OK and hug my neck. Let’s find some curb at Allume, OK?

    Reply
  18. Kay

    Thanks for posting your ugly memory so that we could all get real together. I needed this today. Almost every day, in fact. Blessings Jennifer!

    Reply
  19. Chris MalkemesChris

    Can somebody please move over and let me in. I want on the curb too. I’m going to park my comparison and rev up my thankfulness. I would like to thank all of you for you- Christian scribes and encouragers. Yes and let’s talk about that body of Christ thing. I am probably that ugly foot but I’m going to be thankful that that leg can move me on and what about that eye that keeps me from moving in the dark just because she sees. I so appreciate the ears with their hidden ability to keep my equilibrium in check. Balance is so important. Okay Body of Christ thank you for you., Last, but not least, comparison must flee in the shadow of praise, thankfulness and acceptance.

    Reply
  20. Nannette and The Sweetheart

    Is there room for my extra-wide you-know-what on that curb? This is amazing Jennifer. I am sure one of your scriptures was the “…When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” Lord Jesus, help us! So glad I wandered over today and found my place. I repent, which isn’t just saying, “I’m sorry” but isn’t a complete change of heart, turning around and not going back…Blessings to all of you this holiday weekend. ♥

    Reply
  21. Tiffany

    Thank you so much for this post. I truly believe I was lead to it at this very moment. I was beginning to ‘compare’ and tear myself apart because I was achieving goals I felt were possible. It was eating away at my joy. I forgot that it isn’t in my timing but His…thanks again.

    Reply
  22. Jo-Ann

    Your posts are so encouraging and this one spoke to me today too — I don’t need to be like anyone else — I need to be satisfied with the way God made me — special in His eyes! Move over! I need part of that curb too!

    Reply
  23. Anita Hunt

    Would love to sit with you on the curb Jennifer. Thank you for this wonderful heart felt post, that spoke to me in a number of ways.

    Reply
  24. Helen Murray

    Yes. I’m right there, I’m guilty of those things. Thank you for this, today.

    Reply
  25. lynndmorrissey

    Jennifer, this is an important post. I’ve envied, and then I have suffered for it and made others’ lives miserable too (and mostly dishonored the Lord by this sin). ANd I’ve been on the other end, and it’s painful to be the object of someone’s envy and wrath. God is the gift-giver, and ultimately our complaint is with Him and not others. (And the implication is that we have no room to complain over God’s sovereignty in our lives. We should be grateful for anything He chooses to bestow). I think of John 21, where Peter was making comparisons with John (even after being forgiven and restored by Christ for his awful, thrice-made denial). And Jesus summed up the attitude we should have: “, , , what is that to you?” What *is* it to us if others succeed or if they don’t? It matters not one iota in terms of Jesus’ love for us or in terms of our responsibility to Him to use the gifts He has given us. But it *is* up to us to love others and encourage their successes and weep with their losses, as you suggest. I might also add, for Christian authors, that the Christian publishing world doesn’t help. We are told to list accomplishments like being on bestseller lists, or note the writing awards we’ve won, or keep records of numbers on those who read our blogs and buy our books. When we do this (despite what is expected), we are boasting in ourselves and not the Lord. I’ve done it, so I am preaching to the choir. Thank you for a post that makes me think and repent. Your readers might be interested in a good Christian book called Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything. ANd the author? Anonymous. That’s right: The author chose to remain anonymous. How’s that for humility and courage?

    Bless you, Jennifer, for living and writing in His light.
    Lynn

    Reply
  26. livingrealblog

    Jennifer, there you go, crawling inside my head again; or maybe my heart. I’ve been going though a terrible writer’s block, with my novella as well as my blog. I’ve not been well, and that never helps, but besides that. . . I was complaining to a friend yesterday that I see so much going on in the world, and the church body, etc and others have liberty to write about it, controversial things, but for some reason I don’t. I said something like I just don’t want to blog anymore. She came immediately with, “No, No, No! You write from your heart, and you always lift up Jesus, and that is exactly what you need to keep doing. Your posts are real, simple, and special, and mean so much to me and I’m sure to others.” It’s like a light bulb went on inside my bloggy-brain. She was right. I ask Jesus what I’m supposed to write and then I write it. It’s when I start comparing what I write with others, that the blocks come and I can’t write squat! That’s two reminders in a row, my friend’s yesterday, and now this incredible post of yours today oozing with wisdom and is such confirmation again to me. I repented last night, and was free to write again today. God is soooo good!!

    Reply
  27. Floyd

    Amen, sister! Been there done that and yes, it is really ugly. It is truly a choice of our free will to be genuinely happy for others when they achieve or get things in this life. I learned a long time ago, for everything you get in this life you have to give up something… Too many people are giving up things they can’t afford to. Filling up a pocket at the expense of a hole in the soul is not a wise trade.

    We’re all honored to do what we do… If my calling is to be the footstool for another sister or brother in Christ to use on their way up to His calling… here’s my hand as well. There is no honor in envy, only humility. Great post and heart, Jennifer.

    Reply
  28. Meo Hart

    Thank you for the reminder. I appreciate the words of wisdom God speaks through you.

    Reply
  29. Lea

    Another inspiring post! So, rich and full of the truth of God’s word. Thanks for blessing me this morning!

    Reply
  30. Mindy

    Amen. So be it.

    Reply
  31. Angie Ryg (@angieryg)

    “We need you to be you, in this one life you’ve been given. ”

    Thank you for this. This truth. This amazing call for His uniqueness to shine through us. Your words are a gift and may I remember this when that all too familiar enemy tells me I am less than just because I am not this or that. May His Truth fill my soul.

    Blessings on your week, Friend!

    Reply
  32. Kelly Greer

    Yes …. weep with those who weep…rejoice with those who rejoice! We are all in this together!
    HUGS,
    Kelly

    Reply
  33. Amy

    Thank you is all.

    Reply
  34. Laura Rath

    Beautiful Jennifer, just beautiful! I struggle with the comparisons too, all too often. And I make the same pledge to you. 🙂

    Reply
  35. Dea Moore

    I wish I had written this… just kidding.. I struggle too and I am raising my hand. I might be the girl who sat next to you and had no sympathy. I am sorry for that. It was unkind and I hope your heart healed.

    Easy to understand. Hard to live. But with God’s grace, we can be the person God created us to be—no more, no less. What great hope there is in that!

    Reply
  36. rkrumpe94

    Guilty as charged. I recently spend some time on my face, eyes full of hot tears and a nose running on the loose before the Lord, riding out the storm of my own comparison trap. Giving the moment to the Lord and waiting for clarity when the eyes dried is hard. But God is good and although I am a little bruised, when “I” get out of the way of the work He is doing in my life I find healing from my own sins. Soooo so good, Jennifer! Thank you.

    Reply
  37. Duane Parkinson

    Love your blog, Jennifer!! Beautiful thoughts, and beautiful prose also!

    Reply
  38. Mari-Anna Frangén Stålnacke

    I could not agree more. Great post, Jennifer. Thanks for making the world a better place. God bless you as you bless others!

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. On Comparing. | it's a journey. - [...] This is such a good read. I really needed it. Had to share… Go read it! On Comparing.. [...]
  2. When You Stop Comparing | it's a journey. - [...] When You Stop Comparing [...]
  3. The Thief of Joy: Links for the Weekend @ Greenville SC Maternity Birth Newborn PhotographyGreenville SC Maternity Birth Newborn Photography - [...] When You Stop Comparing and Start Living your One Beautiful Life [...]
  4. Day 1: Being OK with Me | From My Pen - [...] When You Stop Comparing, and Start Living Your One Beautiful Life – By Jennifer Dukes Lee [...]
  5. Being OK with Me | From My Pen - […] When You Stop Comparing, and Start Living Your One Beautiful Life – By Jennifer Dukes Lee […]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest