Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Art of Comparison

"A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps."
     Proverbs 16:9

Something that I have been struggling with lately is falling into the habit of comparing myself to others. It's something that I've observed many women struggling with. It seems as though we could always be thinner, keep the house cleaner, do our jobs better, or spend more daily time with the Lord. The trouble with comparison is that it starts as a small inkling and grows into the green monster of envy. I've been struck lately with how much I'm letting this bring me down and am making steps toward finding the root of the problem and praying that God would fill my mind with other things.

In high school I struggled most with comparing my physical appearance to that of others. Let's face it, most high school girls do! It didn't matter that I was, at times, really too thin for my own good. I was taller, bigger boned and clumsy. Constantly wishing to change my appearance, I couldn't help but feel inadequate. In college I gained weight, but did a much better job at embracing my appearance. Looking back I believe that my closer relationship with God helped me to realize that health mattered more than appearance and I was released from that constant nagging desire to be physically perfect. However, that doesn't mean that the comparing went away.

Being a performance major is exactly what it sounds like...you do lots and lots of performing! During my freshman year I absolutely couldn't get over how amazing the seniors were. Before I knew it I had found a new thing to agonize over: performance perfection. How can I sound like that? Make that expression? Command the stage that way? How can I achieve that goal? Never satisfied with my own performances and always wishing I was as good as so-and-so, I missed out on learning some big lessons. Some days I fared better than others, but mostly I believed that I couldn't be as good as others. What a mighty waste of time!

Now, more than ever, I find my self caught up in what I'm realizing is the art of comparison. A place where so many things I do seem lacking in one way or another. It's a trap that Satan snares so many of us in and certainly a place that I'm tired of being. My biggest comparison weaknesses are that my house is never clean enough, my work is never thorough enough, my walk with God isn't strong enough, and that as a woman of God I'll never be good enough. What's most alarming with this game is that when you let sin take hold and you start doubting and comparing in one area of your life the floodgates open and all of your insecurities are laid out for Satan to have a hay-day with. It's sick and I know I'm one of way too many women who are struggling with it. It's easy to look at another woman's clean house, amazing work ethic, or spiritual fervor and wish that you had everything as good as she does. What I've been realizing is that we all have our struggles whether private or personal. So a clean house doesn't mean that "she" has it all together and spiritual fervor doesn't always create a picture perfect life either. Everyone has shortcomings.

I feel blessed beyond measure to have a husband that God has equipped with immense patience and understanding. He encourages me when I get caught up in all of this and lets me know that my worries aren't built on the truth; they're built on my insecurities.

I'm not writing on this topic because I'm trying to throw a pity party, but rather to come out and say that this is something that I'm working to tackle in my life. The following are some scriptures that I'm working on memorizing so that they'll be at the ready when I get down.

Proverbs 16:9 (from the top of this post)
To some, this may seem like a stretch but for me it makes perfect sense. Oftentimes, my comparisons are based on where I want my life to be instead of where God is leading me. This verse reminds me that my life is in God's hands and that his plan for K and I is better than my silly desires and tendencies.

2 Peter 1: 3-9
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

This is a passage that I'll be working on rather slowly as far as memorization goes...but it's a beautiful reminder. I have been cleansed from my sins by the Lord Jesus Christ! Verses 5-8 especially remind me that my efforts should be focused solely on the things that really matter. Should I strive to keep my little home clean as a service to my husband and our marriage? Yes! Should I work hard at my job? Yes! Should I be ever striving after a stronger relationship with the Lord? Absolutely! Should I compare my efforts to others and cheat myself of satisfaction in my spiritual life? NO! This isn't to say that I shouldn't be constantly challenging myself, just that I can't get caught up in someone else's race.
Exodus 20:17
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

I'm not really coveting those things in the middle but the house and the "anything else" make sure that this verse covers it all. Do. Not. Covet. The tenth commandment makes it clear.

Whether or not you are struggling with the same things I am, I pray that you find peace and contentment today. I can't say enough about how great the God we serve is and as I walk this journey with Him I pray for these struggles to be cast out "in the light of His glory and grace."

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