I chose this picture to illustrate comparison, and I have to admit, I was tempted to “blur out” the blemish on my chin. Before I left for my second trip to the Philippines, I was knee deep in comparison. I had just graduated college, and I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere with my life.
I constantly look to the left and look to my right to see who has what and I why I am lacking. No job, no house, no spouse, and no “luck” on getting those anytime soon. When I was on the plane headed back, I came across this picture and immediately my eyes welled up with tears. This little girl is looking at me with a smile and wonder on her face. Without going into too much detail, every time we went to a school the kids would ask for pictures, hugs, and autographs (not just me, everyone on the trip). They shouted your name, yelled “You are beautiful!”, and “I love you”. They looked at us like we had it all. Lighter skin, money, education, you get the picture. And I was looking at them thinking how beautiful they were, their skin, their hair, their smiles, and their hospitality.
You know how we have tanning salons in America? To get tanner? Well they have salons to make their skin whiter/brighter. We all want something we don’t have. When that girl looked at me at the time of this photo, she wasn’t thinking “Wow, Brooke should get a job. No husband- no worth. No tan- not cute.” She saw me for what she thought I was. She thought I was beautiful. (I am not putting words into her mouth, she told me after pic). The point is, the standard of beauty is different in all areas of the world, we all compare, and we all want what we don’t have.
Like most of you, I have struggled with comparison. I almost feel like it is hypocritical for me to write a blog on this because I still struggle daily with this. When I read encouraging posts, I often read it as if the writer defeated their comparison issues. I have not.
Comparison has a way of making you feel isolated, inadequate, and less-than. As I write this, I am hoping to learn something as well. Let’s navigate this through, find out where comparison comes from, find out its various forms, and learn to combat these lies one by one.
Where does comparison come from?
The easy answer to this question is: “Not from God”. But honestly, as an inquisitive soul that answer isn’t enough for me. Let me clarify, God is enough for me, but the Sunday school answers don’t alleviate my deeper questions. I have always been this way, so I want to apologize upfront for the long explanations.
Let’s look at Peter and John. (John 21).
Many of you know, Peter denied Jesus three times before the rooster crowed just as Jesus predicted. Peter was also part of Jesus’ inner circle along with James and John. I paint Peter in my mind to have a controlling personality. When Jesus predicted that one of His followers would betray Him, Peter motioned John to ask who it would be (John 13:24-25). Peter was curious and inquisitive. He also doubted, we know how he took his eyes off Jesus when walking on water. Gosh, I sure identify with Peter.
Fast forward to Jesus’s third appearance to the disciples, post resurrection, we see that Jesus restores Peter Threefold. This is important because Peter denied Jesus three times before His death, but he was given three chances at grace after the resurrection. Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him, and if so then Peter needs to feed and take care of His people. Then Jesus simply commands Peter to “Follow Him” (v.19). This is interesting because Peter was one of His closest followers, but Jesus wanted Peter to follow Him even after He ascends to heaven.
Look at what happens next. Peter turned around after this conversation and sees John behind them. Peter asks, “Lord what about him?” (v 21) and Jesus responds, “What is that to you? As for you, follow me.” (vs 22)
I am so much like Peter. I seem to always ask God, “What about them?” Comparison.
If you don’t think you have this problem, comparing your body, face, muscle mass, house, spouse, car, or kids are the same thing. We are always concerned with what someone else is doing. Poor Peter had to be the example for it.
Comparison comes from not being content with what God has given you. YOU. The unique you.
Instead of Peter being grateful for Jesus extending him three opportunities of grace, he was worried about John. Before Jesus’s death, Peter’s denial, and Peter’s comeback, Jesus placed a great call on Peter’s life:
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19).
Forgetting who you are, forgetting God’s call on your life, and ungratefulness are all utensils that shovel comparison into your mind.
Don’t lose heart though. You are not alone in this. Remember Peter walked on water with Jesus, lost focus, cut off a high priest’s servant’s ear to defend Jesus, then denied Jesus three times. Jesus is all about extending grace and preserving His call on your life. Just remember that you are unique, and He gives us what we need and has a relationship with us that is unlike anyone else’s. It’s personal.
Comparison and its various forms:
Comparison for me transcends the social media realm. Although, Instagram doesn’t help. I think I compare myself most to the person I want to be. I compare myself to the ideal Brooke Maratta. Sure, I covet some girl’s hair, or body, or ability to talk to boys without completely freaking out. But I mainly compare myself to the person that I feel everyone expects me to be.
This, my dear friend, is called unnecessary pressure. On the practical spectrum, people are not concerned with you as much as they are concerned with themselves. So, if you think that someone wants you to be a size 2, with clear skin, and a great job then you got it wrong. Or if you are a size 2 and people tell you to put meat on your bones, it’s time to regain confidence in the body God has given you.
Going back to my picture for illustration, that little girl didn’t expect me to have a career in TV by August with a nice apartment in a new city. That was all me who expected that. Good news is, Jesus didn’t expect that of me either. He already knew that wasn’t going to be the case. Jesus expects me to “Follow Him” …just like Peter.
Comparison also shows itself through working hard at fleeting pleasures. Working out, working hard, eating clean, tanning, etc. these are all good things, but it is important to check your motive. The richest and wisest man to ever live, Solomon, puts it this way,
“I saw that all labor and all skillful work is due to one person’s jealousy of another. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:4)
King Solomon isn’t saying to sit on your butt and do nothing to be a better version of yourself. He is isolating our motive. Jealousy of someone else’s story, money, talents, looks. Jealousy of the person you think you should be (who doesn’t exist), or jealousy of the person you think people want you to be, these bring about comparison and unhealthy thinking.
Lighten the load a bit, and just follow Jesus. If disappointment determined God’s love for us, well we would all be in deep trouble.
God granted you gifts, beauty, a personality, and skills that are all unique to you. He is creative! And get this, you are only accountable for that of which was given to you! No one else!
To close out, let’s go back to Peter. Peter had an exceptional call on His life. Jesus predicted his own death, own resurrection, and Peter’s denial. Yet He still spoke life over Peter. He gave Peter authority and purpose despite his shortcomings and future failures. Even when Jesus was extending grace to Peter, Peter was still worried about John. Jesus told Peter it was none of his concern and to follow Him. Maybe we should tell ourselves that the next time we are comparing ourselves to our friends (or strangers).
Comparison is the thief of contentment. Before you get entangled in the comparison trap, ask yourself why you are not content with yourself. After doing so, journal all the things that God has given you. Thank Him for them and ask Him to release you from the unnecessary pressures of this world.
Our world needs you. The world needed Peter, and the world needed John. Heck the world needed Jesus, but Jesus used Peter and John separately to spread the news of His love for all. One wasn’t better than the other.
There is a unique call on your life that only your unique face, unique body, unique personality, and unique mind could fill.
As far as social media is concerned, “Don’t compare your behind-the-scenes to someone else’s highlight reel” (Idk who said this, but I stole it).
Find joy in your quirks. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need someone else to see something in you to prove that you have what it takes. God sees you and knows you.
I’m sure the other disciples looked at Peter as far gone. That he was past the point of return- denying Jesus that way. I would’ve probably said to myself, “I’m glad I’m not him”.
But Jesus did things vastly different than everyone. He forgives, He accepts, and He loves. You should try it on yourself.
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10