Hi, everyone! I'm happy to be back again today to share some more thoughts with you, this time on the subject of comparison.
So, following on from my last post, I have been thinking about how the enemy uses our insecurities as ammunition against us. In any other ‘battle’ you would never hand your enemy ammunition; we really need to work on our insecurities so we don’t hand over ammunition in spiritual battle! The Bible even tells us in Ephesians 4:27 [ESV] “and give no opportunity to the devil.”
How do we get rid of our insecurities? The ‘simple’ answer is to have our identities firmly secure in Christ. With our identity firmly rooted in Christ, we will stop trying to find our self-worth, joy, peace, etc. in other places. We will no longer rely upon the praise or love of others around us to make us feel valued, huge numbers of “followers” and “likes” on social media to validate our day, a huge piece of chocolate cake to help comfort us, etc.
God’s love isn’t based on our performance, what we can do for Him, how good that photo filter makes our lives look, how amazing our lasagna tastes, or even how well we treat those around us. God IS love [1 John 4:8]. HIS love is unconditional, steadfast, and there is nothing you or anyone else can do to separate you from it [Romans 8:35]! And I believe when we truly, deeply, understand how great, wide, deep, overwhelming, and all-encompassing God’s love is for us, and surrender to it, well that will be the happiest, most secure, and most content any of us have ever felt. We will stop accepting the labels others put on us and boxes they put us into; we’ll stop being defined by the things others say about us, how people treat us, or how someone make us feel. Our insecurities will no longer rule over us, we will stand assured of our heavenly Father’s love and nothing will be able to stop us — because if God is for us, who can be against us [Romans 8:31, Psalm 118:6]?!
Having our identity secure in Christ is a huge concept, one that there are various books written about, many sermons have been preached upon… there are even courses designed to help you to secure your identity in Christ. So, I am not going to attempt to tackle that today. (My top book recommendation on the topic however, is Ephesians. It is in fact your complete guide to having your identity rooted in Christ!)
But until we have our identity fully secured in Christ, while we are still fighting the insecurity fires, what can we do? Looking at my own life, I know the root of a lot of my insecurities stem from, well, not having fully nailed the above, I need to work on that myself! But apart from that, a lot of mine stem from comparison. Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Some days I letter this out again and again… as much as I need to until it has sunk in. Because comparing ourselves to those around us generally just leads to no good. It leads to discontentment, sadness, bitterness, jealousy, insecurity, pride, and so many other bad things. The Bible warns us in James 3:16 [ESV] “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” Or as they say in The Message translation, “Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats.” Isn’t that the truth!
Comparing yourself to others is always risky. I think in this age social media makes the temptation to compare ourselves even greater. As you look through your social media feed and see fabulous photos of people’s seemingly perfect lives, you may start to grade your day based on the life someone else is projecting. Then you start comparing your life against one that you only know through visuals! This can happen by accident, though. Let me explain what I mean:
I had a trip to IKEA not all that long ago with my family. You really don’t want to bump into me in IKEA if I am with my family! It’s not pretty! I become a ball of stress, I get grumpy and short-tempered. This trip was no different, and halfway around I was losing the will to live and my gorgeous daughter and hubby were driving me nuts! I picked up the waste paper basket I’d put in the trolley, and I put it on my two year-old daughter’s head because I didn’t want to listen to her whine any more (#mumoftheyear). I decided to post a “real life” photo on my Instagram feed: I took a photo of my daughter running around with a bin on her head and posted it with the comment “I reached my IKEA limit a good twenty minutes ago!” with a grumpy face. Do you know what, so many people totally misread the situation and thought we were having a blast!
When you’re comparing your own life to a life of visuals on social media, it’s hard to remember the fact that you can edit out the bad when posting online! You don’t have to take a photo of the toddler temper tantrum, the burnt dinner, the argument with your sister, the mascara stained cheeks or the flabby tummy… no, you can suck it in, dress it up, slap on some make-up and smile for all of two minutes, take a photo, and post it to show the world you are okay and you are coping, even if you feel like you’re drowning.
What you see on social media is not always the true story. Or, shall we say it’s not the full story. In fact, I recently saw a tweet that said, “If only we broadcasted the deleted scenes versus the highlight reel.” AMEN!
My top tip for dealing with comparison via social media: If you find yourself following someone that you’re constantly comparing yourself to, unfollow them [Matt 5:29]. It really can be that easy. Social media is a double edged sword — it can be great for building up, but it can also tear you down. It’s about who you follow and what you choose to see. Proverbs 27:12 [ESV] says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” We are influenced by those around us — the ones we surround ourselves with both in the real world and online. So choose carefully and wisely.
I did not find the online Christian community on Instagram until I had already been on it two years. There is nothing wrong with following all sewing and cute Boston Terriers — I enjoyed it, and I got some good sewing tips. But now that I follow great Christian Accounts like @SheReadsTruth and @IllustratedFaith, and have connected with people around the world who enjoy creative worship and share their faith daily, my feed is completely transformed. If I’m having a bad day I can scroll no more than four pictures on my IG feed before I see some scripture posted from someone, and that is awesome! That’s The Word infiltrating my life at every corner, and I love it! So, I’m not saying to pack up social media and live in a cave — quite the opposite — just be aware of who you are “following” and why!
But back to the point. As we compare ourselves to others it creates a barrier between us and them. A wall gets built up, and is built with many different bricks. Comparison is one, judgment is another. The possibilities of the word written on each brick (comparison, judgment, etc.) are almost endless, but as we compare our life to others we pick up another brick and add it to the wall between us.
Comparison has got in the way of some potentially great relationships in my life, and has ruined some too. I’ve met women and, based on a first impression, have compared our lives and considered us to be incompatible as friends.
For example, I missed out on 18 months of friendship with one of the most fantastic Christian women I know, because when we first met I compared the outward appearance of her life with my own, and judged it. Wrongly. When we eventually started to hang out I was amazed at how similar we actually were, and we shared some of the best theological discussions I’ve ever had over what became our weekly lunch meet up.
As another example, in another church I had a good female friend who I gelled with pretty instantly. Then we had babies at similar times, and insecurities set in (amongst the pregnancy hormones) as I started to compare myself to her and what she was doing as a new mum. I compared her “wonderful life” with my own, quickly picking up bricks to build a wall of insecurity between us. And with this wall half built, I would then look for opportunities to compare our lives so I would come out more positively: “Well, I at least never do that,” and “She’s not as good as me at this.” Instead of a sterling prayer partner and friend, through comparison I created a rival. Me, myself — I did it! Pretty soon there was a huge wall between us, and the friendship was challenged beyond its strength for a time. All because of comparison. She had not changed at all; she was the same great woman she had always been, and she remained gracious and patient with me even when she didn’t understand why I was pushing her away. It was all down to me comparing our lives and building a wall because of insecurity. And do you know what, if I had talked to her about my insecurities rather than building a wall with them, I am pretty sure she could have helped me!
As well as the classic comparison pitfalls of celebrities, siblings, rivals, and friends, there is also the big one: yourself. Don't fall into the trap of comparing yourself as you are now to the person you were in the past, or to the person that "you want(ed) to be". This can start quite simply and innocently... a glance at photos of yourself in your late teens/early twenties, longingly wishing you were “still that thin” or back in those “good old carefree student days,” etc. A one off thought is not an issue, but if it develops into daydreams and starts consuming a lot of your thought time… I’m not going to beat about the bush here, it’s a waste of time! You cannot jump into that photo, and the more time you waste daydreaming about it the more unhappy and discontent you will feel in your current situation. That’s as much time as I am going to give that!
The bigger "you comparison" pitfall (in my mind at least) is the issue of comparing your current situation to where you thought you would be "by now.” The spouse you thought you'd find, job you thought you'd have, house you thought you'd be living in, kids you expected to have, etc. Comparing your current situation to dreams you had or still have — yes, it can be positive motivation if used right, but I suspect it's more likely to rob you of the joy of your present situation. You don't see what you have right now and celebrate it, because you're too busy comparing it to what you expected to have around you right now. The comparison pulls you into dwelling on the past and breeds disappointments rather than celebrating (and living in) the now! I am not saying give up any hope of achieving your dreams — no way! What I am saying is do not miss the joy in your life right now because you are waiting for life to “really start.”
All of these are some of the most likely places comparison is lurking, waiting to jump out and create insecurity for the enemy to use. The enemy uses our insecurities as ammunition against more than just ourselves, too. He uses my insecurities to isolate and disarm me, but he can also use my insecurities to harm others. I have done this, as I’ve said, but I have also been on the receiving end of this.
You know when you’re a kid at school and someone is mean to you, you come home upset and your parents say, “it’s just because she is jealous of you?” (I remember both of my parents saying this to me as a kid, anyway.) I didn’t understand it at the time — I couldn’t see what that popular girl who was being mean had to be jealous about. Now I can see it, looking back — because sometimes when you don't know any different you take things for granted, and so cannot see what there is to be jealous of: a stable home life, something so simple and expected in my own childhood, is sadly not the case for many children. Looking around me as an adult, I can also see some of the most hurtful things that have been said to me by my friends in recent years have been rooted in comparison and jealousy.
Oh yes, the enemy is really good at fooling us into becoming bricklayers. We build walls that end friendships and community that could benefit us. And that’s not easy for me to acknowledge. I’m an introvert, and not a people person. I have been known to say such ungracious things as “community is overrated,” but I know it’s not. As much as I would rather be on my own than in a crowded room, community and being real and vulnerable — sharing life with trusted people — cannot to be overrated.
So friends, do not be an unwitting labourer for the enemy. Don’t be a blind bricklayer, building up walls of insecurity. Pick up a sledgehammer for the Kingdom and knock some walls down! Stop looking through a lens of comparison, and look at those around you as God does. Do you think God compares his creations? I don’t!
Love those around you, as God loves you.
I was so happy to have Rebecca Kemp (the creative mastermind behind Grace and Salt Ink), back on the blog today! As I've said, Rebecca is full of wisdom, and I'm so grateful that God brought her into my life. In case you missed it before, here's a bit about her!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Rebecca lives in the very north east of England, is married to her University sweetheart, and together they have a gorgeous little daughter with a messy shock of extremely blonde hair. She has a serious craft addiction, has been a Sci-Fi nerd since childhood, and has a serious love for Boston Terriers (although she doesn't own one; she just stalks them on Instagram).