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The Day I Stopped Comparing

Written By Hilary Charlet, USA

Who remembers dial-up Internet, a limit on the amount of texts you could send per month, and the handy-dandy flip phone? What about the Gameboy, LeapPad, and board games?

Now it’s the Xbox, Wi-Fi, and live streams for everything. Our generation has seen so many technological advancements, and we’re still young. It’s pretty scary to think about how much technology will continue to change everything, and not always for the better.

And then there’s social media: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter. My niece has a bunch of other apps too that I’ve never even heard of.

It takes literally seconds to post a status or photo. But it can impact someone else for much longer. How often do we think before we post something? Is it something that will encourage others, or tear someone down? Is it posted out of spite and bitterness, or love and hope, to bring others joy?

Every day, I see engagements, weddings, pregnancy announcements, babies, happy couples, new jobs, vacations and more. I love being able to stay connected with people I’ve met throughout my journey, especially since many of them live all over the US. It makes it easy to keep up to date with their lives.

This is the good side of it. Now, let’s talk about the bad.

 

Down the online rabbit hole

We’ve become harsh with our comments, envious of the lives of others, stuck in a rut of comparing our behind-the-scenes lives to someone else’s highlight reel.

We see people our age getting married and wonder if we’ll ever meet our significant other. We see others going on vacations and take for granted the time that we have with our family and friends on a little weekend road trip, because it isn’t an island resort, so how could we have a fun time?

We become so focused on what others are doing that we forget to be present and appreciative and thankful for the blessings right in front of us. We forget that we’re blessed beyond measure, even if it isn’t in the same ways that our family and friends are.

If you’re reading this right now, you’re alive. We aren’t ever promised tomorrow, so isn’t the gift of another day something we should not take for granted?

If I’m honest, I used to struggle with comparing myself to others. I’ve never really known what I’ve wanted to do with my life. Until I started blogging and writing, I really had no idea, and now that’s all I really want to do, even if people think it’s silly. I was envious of those who’ve known since childhood what they were going to do when they “grew up”.

 

Looking for a purpose

It was two weeks before my college graduation and I still hadn’t found a job, unlike many of my friends. There I was, a little nervous but expectant, because God had been stirring in my heart that He had something planned for me. It was something I would never have expected, and something that’s challenged me but allowed me to grow my faith and trust in Him daily.

You see, I’ve worked six different gigs since graduation. These opportunities have taken me all over the place, on planes and subways and BMWs and Ubers and more. It took me way out of my comfort zone, but led me somewhere new.

The first took me away from home for four months out to the east coast, with a team I’d never met until I arrived for training. We put on events in over 50 different locations, all of which brought fresh faces and new places. After that, I worked other contract positions for the same company, all of which began with me not knowing anyone beforehand. I could choose between two things when I began: be afraid and timid at the idea of being uncomfortable in not knowing anyone or anything about the location I was in, or embracing where God had led me and make the most of it. While everyone else is coming up to their two-year job anniversary, here I am. And I couldn’t be more glad.

If He led me somewhere, then He needed me to be there. If He put a group of people in my life, I needed them, or I would somehow be a part of their story that they needed. I learned everything I could, experiencing every moment as it came, and loving in any way possible.

I didn’t want to waste my time wondering why God wasn’t showing up in certain areas of my life while He was busy showing up big in other areas. Instead, I had to choose to show up where He wanted me, and to be joyful, patient, and expectant in the other areas.

For the first time, I stopped comparing myself, my journey, where I was at and where I was going and every other aspect of who I was with others. Instead, I put my focus on God’s plan for me and being completely present wherever I was.

 

My plan vs God’s plan

But it didn’t mean I stopped having desires and expectations. While in Michigan for a few months last year, I started dating a guy from there whom I was pretty convinced I was going to marry.

God must have laughed at that. He knew that I’d have my heart broken more than once (yes, by the same person) and that it would challenge me to the core. He knew that I’d be stuck comparing myself to someone else for way longer than I care to admit. But He also knew that through that trial, I’d learn to lean on Him more than I ever have.

While I was praying for our relationship to grow, God knew I instead needed my relationship with Him to grow. He knew what was going on behind-the-scenes, while I was clueless. He knew the man I had picked out for myself to marry had instead picked someone else to pursue, sometimes simultaneously, other times after our “break-ups”.

When the truth wound its way out one night, I didn’t know how to feel or what to do. It hurt, a lot. There stirred in me my self-doubt, wondering why I wasn’t good enough to be someone’s first choice, what I did wrong, how I could have been a better girlfriend—the list goes on.

It’s funny how we think we know what we want, when it’s sometimes totally different from what we need. I had wanted a Godly relationship more than anything, but what God showed me is that a relationship with Him was what I needed then and what I need right now—to take my focus off another person, and instead focus on getting my heart and soul back to where it needs to be, back in the center of His embrace. Back to knowing that I am God’s first choice— always and every day.

The day I stopped comparing my life to those around me, I felt the chains break. I felt joyful, hopeful, excited, and free.

 

Your place in God’s plan

Where God has you right now, whether you’re in the valley or on the mountaintop, He is there with you. He wants you to be free of all of the lies and labels society tries to put on you. He doesn’t want you to be addicted to the virtual world when there’s so many in the world right in front of you that need your light and love.

If you’re in a season of waiting, wait expectantly. He has a plan for you, and it’s so good. 

If you’re feeling undeserving and not good enough, stop.

Know with your whole heart that you’re loved, you’re more than good enough and He’s going to use you in ways that you can’t even imagine.

Don’t let social media sucker you into believing that your life is less valuable than another. Don’t let the words and actions of others cause you to question who you are or whose you are. Don’t spend your time wishing your life was like someone else’s.

Marvel at God’s goodness to grant you another day because you’re here for a reason, and that reason isn’t to dwell on what you do not have.

The day you stop comparing is the day you will be free: free to be the one God created you to be. Embrace it and be the hope, the love, the flame that could ignite a fire in the souls of every life you touch.

A Life Lesson in an Elevator

Written By Priscila Stevanni, Indonesia

One morning, I was in an elevator travelling down from the 27th floor.

It stopped at the 19th floor. “Selamat pagi,” a tourist said as she entered the elevator with her luggage. “Good morning.” I smiled back at her, wishing that I could be as cheerful as her when all I was hoping was to skip the day.

The elevator stopped again at the 15th floor. A girl in high school uniform and her mum walked in, both looking unhappy. The mom scolded her daughter for being late, and the daughter frowned at her. I wished I were that girl too. I bet her life was still better than mine. After all, what could be so bad when you’re in high school? There isn’t anything to worry about except homework, exams, and boyfriends.

The elevator stopped a third time, this time at the 10th floor. A man in a suit walked in. He carried a briefcase and his face looked tired. I wondered if it would be better to be in his shoes rather than mine. I’ve always wanted to be a “regular” worker—someone with a fixed 8-to-5 working schedule, sitting in a cubicle, working behind a screen. At least this man didn’t have to do the night shift at the hospital or work 24 hours at one go, I thought to myself.

There are no slow days at the hospital. It’s stressful to work in a place where people’s lives are always on the line. As a doctor, I have to make decisions about the lives of others and then take the responsibility for them. Sometimes, when I reach home, I question myself about whether I had made the right decision for my patients. Did I do my best to save their lives? Did I do anything wrong? After a long day at work, these thoughts only exhaust me more.

It was unusual for the elevator to stop so many times on its way down and be as packed as it was that day. And as I observed my fellow passengers one by one, wishing that I could be one of them, I wondered if they were thinking the same thing. Maybe the unhappy girl was thinking that it was better to be someone else too. Maybe the office worker was even hoping to be like me.

Then it hit me: Was I unhappy because I kept comparing my life with others? Proverbs 14:30 says: “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Envy rots the bones. Comparing keeps me from feeling content with my situation. It wearies me even more and drains my energy. When we’re dissatisfied with our own lives and keep comparing our situations with those of other people, these thoughts make us even unhappier. We fail to realize that God gives each of us our own crosses to bear.

I realized then that I should stop comparing my life with others’, and just focus on carrying the load that God had given to me. It won’t be easy, but I know God will help me. I’ve also found when I stop checking my social media accounts and comparing my life to what I see in the media, it helps me to stop this constant game of comparison.

When the elevator door opened on the ground floor, the sound of people walking out made me look down at my own shoes. The shoes I had to walk in. The cross that I have to bear. But thankfully, I know I will never be alone, for Jesus walks with me.

Why Comparing Can be Dangerous

I won’t deny that I often compare myself with others, including family members and friends. Such moments make me realize that there are so many people out there who have talents and skills that far exceed my own, and which I may never be able to attain, try as I might.

Comparison is not a bad thing, especially when it’s a way to inspire ourselves towards self-improvement. But if we are not careful, it can grow into an obsession that may eventually eat into our lives and become detrimental to our confidence and sense of identity.

As a graphic designer, I find myself benchmarking my own work against that of others and noticing a stark contrast (at least, that’s what I think.) While some may say that art is subjective, I cannot help but hold the view in my mind that I am just not up to mark. I tell myself that “I am not good enough” or “I wish I could do that”. Up till today, I still find it difficult to call myself an “artist”.

I’m not sure why I think this way; it could be due to a lack of affirmation from others in the same industry.

This is where friends have been a great help. As we open up and share our insecurities, we will begin to realize that all of us have experienced the same thing at one point or another. We might even have been envious of each other’s skills and talents. I’ve learned that we should appreciate one another’s gifts and successes, and not compare ourselves with others. The Bible says, “love does not envy” (1 Corinthians 13:4) and “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15).

God has also encouraged me through His Word. I have a friend who would read her Bible whenever she feels down, which has inspired me to search the scriptures. The Lord knows exactly what I need to hear and has given me these words of assurance:

1. I made you.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”—Ephesians 2:10

2. I numbered the hairs on your head.
“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”—Luke 12:7

3. I’m working in you.
“for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”—Philippians 2:13

4. My grace is sufficient for you.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”—2 Corinthians 12:9

These verses have convinced me that the Lord loves us and cares for us deeply. They have also got me thinking about whether my identity is rooted in others or in Christ, and whose opinion I should value.

So, will I continue to compare myself to others? Most certainly: it’s hard to avoid doing so.

But can I get rid of the negative thoughts about myself that inevitably enter my head? I will certainly try my best.

This journey of growing will take some time, but I know I’m not alone. We are all in this together, so let’s help sharpen each other (Proverbs 27:17) and strive to be rooted in Christ’s security and identity, so that when others compare themselves to us, all they will see is God at work.

It’s time we stop looking around, and start looking up instead.