Put Away the Measuring Stick
by Becky Harling
I walked into the room, coffee in hand. I paused and quickly scanned the other guests. That’s when I freaked out! Many of them were authors and speakers like me, only most of them were far more successful. I immediately felt sabotaged by internal questions, “Why was I invited to this party?” “Am I wearing the right clothes?” “God, why am I not more successful like these other authors?” As soon as that last thought travelled through my mind, I realized I was doing it again – I was playing the comparison game.
I’m guessing you’ve compared yourself to others as well. In a world that idealizes success, beauty and intelligence, we continually ask ourselves, “How do I measure up?” With another school year starting in just a few weeks we might be asking, “How do my kids measure up?” The problem is when we compare ourselves to others, or our kids to other kids, it’s risky. Here are a few of the risk factors:
Comparing erodes our contentment. I have seen this many times with mothers in the realm of their kids. Think about it. Have you ever been in a room where mothers of toddlers are discussing potty training? What happens? One mother says her child is potty trained at 23 months and all the other mothers in the room go pale. Why? They’re all thinking, “What’s wrong with my child?” Or, have you ever been part of a discussion with mothers of students who are about to graduate from high school? Inevitably, the subject of college acceptance comes up. If one mother mentions that her child has been accepted at Harvard, the other mothers all grow anxious and wonder why they didn’t give birth to a brilliant child. The Apostle Paul wrote that “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (I Timothy 6:6). Contentment is a learned behavior that God treasures. If we’re going to grow in contentment, we’re going to have to stop comparing.
Comparing leads to envy. The woman who compares her marriage with the marriage of her friend may become envious of her friend’s husband. The neighbor who compares her house to the home of her neighbor wants a new home. The grass usually looks greener on someone else’s lawn. I love the way author Dennis Rainey says it, “Envy germinates in our souls when we decide to plant the seeds of comparison.”i God had some pretty tough things to say about envy (Proverbs 14:30, I Corinthians 13:4; James 3:16, 4:1-3). If we’re going to live lives free from envy, we’re going to have to stop comparing.
Comparing damages our confidence. When I compare my gifts to the gifts or talents of another, I often come up short and then my confidence takes a hard hit. Similarly, if I compare my kids to other people’s kids, insecurity grows in their lives because they sense my dissatisfaction. The Psalmist confidently declared, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14). The writer of Hebrews instructs us to not throw away our confidence (Hebrews 10:35). How do we throw away our confidence? We chuck confidence out the window every time we play the comparison game.
So how do we stop? I have a few suggestions that have helped me. My prayer is that they will help you as well:
1. Worship the Giver of the gifts and not the gifts themselves. Worshipping the gifts themselves is idolatry. God has the right to distribute gifts as He pleases (Matthew 20:15). Spend more of your time focused on God and less of your time focused on His gifts.
2. Say thanks every day! The more I say thanks for what God has given me, the less I envy what He has given someone else. When I struggle with envy I make it a practice to keep a thankful list. Gratitude tames the monster of envy.
3. Practice rejoicing when others (or the children of others) get the win. Oh, this is tough! But, when we choose by faith to rejoice when someone else gets what we want, God is pleased.
4. Ask God for the grace to accept yourself and your kids. We tend to either think we are more gifted than we really are, or we struggle with self-doubt believing the lie that we’re not gifted at all. The truth is usually in the middle. Most of us are pretty average, so are our kids, yet God by His mercy chooses to use us for His glory.
I believe if we ruthlessly eliminate comparing, we’ll find freedom from performing. God will pour out blessing beyond measure and our lives will be filled with contentment.
i. Dennis Rainey As quoted in True Identity: The Bible For Women (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005), 1525
Author, Becky Harling is a frequent speaker at conferences and women’s retreats. Her life experience as pastor’s wife, Women’s Ministry Director, survivor of breast cancer and childhood sexual abuse all bring depth and realism to her message. Becky creatively combines Biblical insight with her powerful testimony and the stories of other women to bring hope and healing to women. She is the author of three books; Finding Calm In Life’s Chaos, Rewriting Your Emotional Script and Freedom From Performing. (Navpress) Her fourth book, The 30 Day Praise Challenge (David C. Cook Publishing) will be released in 2013. Becky and her husband Steve, have four adult kids and four grandkids. Becky loves hiking with her hubby, traveling around the world, hanging out with her kids and grandkids, shopping at the mall and drinking Starbucks with friends.