Comparison: The Home Wrecker
by Heather Creekmore
If you ask me to count the hidden blessings of the global pandemic, I know what tops my list. Yes, I savored the break from shuttling kids to practice and wearing makeup or real pants. But my favorite part of social distancing and stay-at-home orders? That’s an easy one. COVID gave me a break from worrying about my home!
No company coming for the foreseeable future? Yee-haw! I can let those bathrooms go another week without cleaning! There’s nothing growing in the toilets…yet. Who’s going to see them anyway?
Dust bunnies? I’m sure our allergies will be fine. Dishes piling? No one will ever know. It’s not like a neighbor’s going to drop by . . .
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a total slob. But as a pastor’s wife, I’ve grown accustomed to constant entertaining, having a “company-ready” home with only an hour’s notice. I relished the chance to live in peace with my chipping grout, flattened sofa cushions and dirty blinds. Suddenly my outdated kitchen didn’t matter as much as finding frozen vegetables and toilet paper. No guests for months seemed like a ticket to freedom.
Until it happened.
She showed up on the Zoom call with paint-stained hands and a bandana. She was dedicating the quarantine to home improvement. After updating her bathroom, she’d paint all the interior walls and re-do the kitchen cabinets.
What? I thought this was my break from keeping up with HGTV!
Then, within seconds, that sneaky villain—comparison—started her condemning monologue.
- Her house was already better than yours, now you’re even further behind. Your house will never be good enough.
- You should slap on a mask and gloves and go to Home Depot. Maybe this is the perfect time for upgrades. Why didn’t you think of that?
- She’s got so much more energy for house projects than you do. What’s your problem? You’re so lazy. Why can’t you just keep up?
Comparison the Bully
Comparison. She can be so mean, can’t she? She’s happy to kick you while you’re down. But ironically, she doesn’t relent even when you’re meeting her demands. Comparison belts out the “Never Enough” song from The Greatest Showman while nodding her head like a disappointed parent, heckling as you try to keep up.
Though it sounds severe, I know comparison’s schemes well. They call her the thief of joy, but I find that too benevolent of a characterization. Comparison isn’t some sneak in a ski mask, swiping shipping boxes from your front porch. No. Comparison is a bully. She’s a predator. She’s a killer. And, she’s a home wrecker.
Take a moment and think about the last time you compared your home to someone else’s. Did that improve your relationship with that person or stifle it, even just a bit? I know from experience that comparing my home, my body, my children or my life to those of another woman has never resulted in a stronger, healthier relationship.
Instead, comparison’s musings open the floodgates for me to feel insecure and worthless. Then, before I know it, she’s led me to a place of envy, jealousy or even covetousness. That comparison, she is always divisive.
Sure, it starts innocent enough. I ooh and ahh over her new countertops or I nod my admiration as I drive by their freshly landscaped lawn. But, it doesn’t take long before I’m wrinkling my nose at my own grass. Every wipe of my worn countertops brings a barrage of comparing thoughts that steal not just my joy but also my peace and rest. Resentment swells like my fingers in the summer heat.
Funny thing is, sometimes comparison doesn’t even need to show me where I’m falling short. I believe her when she tells me that your home is cleaner than mine, better decorated than mine and more organized than mine. That’s my default position. I assume everyone else lives in the equivalent of a model home, while I’m doing my best to keep crumbs off the floor before the ants move in.
Proverbs 14:1 may be a familiar scripture. “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” How often had I deconstructed my own home with my negative thoughts? How often had I ruined my own peace and joy through giving in to comparison’s thoughts about my home . . . and my life? Comparison is a homewrecker. Unless we confront her, she’ll cause serious damage to our peace.
Losing the Weight of Comparison
Thank God He’s willing to help us lose the weight of comparison and lift the burden of measuring up. I spent years searching for sound advice as to how to kick comparison out of my life, but struggled to find something strong enough to appease my struggle. Yes, I knew not to compare my “behind the scenes” to someone else’s “highlights reel,” but that only helps for social media. What about those times when I’ve seen their “house in a shambles” and it really is “better” than mine?
Others encouraged me to focus on my own uniqueness. That way I wouldn’t be tempted to compare. Finding solace in the “special” nature of my own path would keep me from caring about the road others travelled. This wasn’t awful advice. It helped some days. But on others it left me having hard conversations with God. “Lord, I know you made us all different. But, why couldn’t you have made me more like her with a steady stream of energy to repaint rooms and organize closets?” Truth is, when I’m comparing my begging-for-the-vacuum carpets to her shiny new wood floors, hearing of my “uniqueness” doesn’t help at all.
No pithy quotes or Jedi mind tricks will effectively take us to a place of contentment and rest, releasing us from comparison’s clutches. When comparison makes me feel hateful, there’s only one way I’ve found to turn my attitude back to grateful. The only effective cure for comparison is grace.
I was raised in church, but I held a shallow understanding of grace for decades. It wasn’t until God opened my eyes to the many facets of grace—His saving grace, His sanctifying grace, growing grace and His sustaining grace—that I could see life differently. Looking at triumphs, failures, outdated furniture and overgrown lawns through the filter of grace brings a supernatural peace.
Through the filter of grace, it’s okay that I let the house go a bit during the height of the pandemic (or anytime I need to!). Grace says I can be content in all circumstances, rejoicing even when my house doesn’t measure up to the neighbor’s. Grace reminds me that my value and worth don’t come from having the best home (or the best body). Instead, it comes from what Jesus was willing to sacrifice for me on the cross. Grace also reminds me that, in hard times—like a worldwide health scare—Jesus is always with me, providing and sustaining me. New furniture and a kitchen makeover may feel good for a moment, but there’s no substitute for the joy and peace that we can find in God’s grace. When comparison breeds discontent, it’s only God’s grace that can refocus us off what we lack and onto the truth that we have everything we need in Christ alone. Or, as Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 12:9, His grace is sufficient for me.
When God’s grace floods our hearts, gratitude and worship flow out of them. We wash comparison away with our praise. We silence comparison’s home-wrecking criticism by turning our hearts away from the worship of Pinterest-worthy bathrooms and mantel décor and instead re-adjusting our gaze onto the One who’s truly beyond compare.
Most recognized from her appearance on Netflix’s hit show, “Nailed it,” Heather Creekmore writes and speaks hope to thousands of women each week through her Compared to Who? blog and podcast. Heather’s latest book, The Burden of Better: How a Comparison-Free Life Leads to Joy, Peace & Rest, offers women a journey into the depths of God’s grace as a pathway off the treadmill of constant comparison. Connect with Heather at Comparedtowho.me.
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