“Do you have an invisible rope around your children?” a woman said to me.
“Excuse me?” I replied.
She said that whenever she saw me, my children were so well behaved that she thought I had an invisible rope around them. I was surprised to hear this, as I had just struggled keeping them in line as we watched a school band concert.
“I wish my children were that well behaved,” she mused. Apparently, in comparing herself to me, she had found herself wanting, and thought less of herself. Her happiness and contentment decreased automatically. This often happens when we look at others, and then back at ourselves. Here are four reasons why:
- We compare weaknesses to strengths.
Comparison often leads to jealousy. We want what we see others have. We see the things that they do well, or their character strengths, and compare them to our own weaknesses. The poem Desiderata says “”If you compare yourself with others you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” The anecdote for comparison is acceptance or finding things we have in common with others. Then we rejoice in each other’s strengths and see our mutual benefit.
- We criticize our own efforts.
Comparison leads to criticism. We tear ourselves down for what we don’t have or what we “should have” done. We beat ourselves up for not being better, minimizing our own feelings of worth. After we feel bad, we look for what is bad in others. Animosity and enmity result. Our relationships become less than what they could be. In contrast, when we see that others are doing well and rejoice in their successes, we build feelings of friendship and camaraderie.
- We become prideful.
C. S. Lewis once said, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.” Comparing ourselves to others makes us start to think that we are better, smarter, or more worthwhile than them, and we look down on them. The opposite is also true. When we have what we perceive is less than others, we become envious of them and place barriers between us. Humility is the opposite of pride. When we are humble, we learn from others rather than comparing ourselves to them.
- We compete with others.
Comparison leads to competition. We want to do better and be better to show ourselves ahead of others. The constant competition grates on our relationships and rather than talking about things that uplift and strengthen each other, we boast and brag about what we have and what we have accomplished.
Comparison is the thief of happiness. It places our hearts upon the things of this world. In the end, however, we discover that accumulation of things does not equal happiness. Happiness comes in rejoicing in the good. The best thing we can do is forget what we and others have and use our time helping and serving, for your emotional health!
©2018 by Denise W. Anderson, all rights reserved.