The Good and the Ugly of Comparison

scaleAs all of us women know, we are prone to comparison. This can happen in a positive way we look at wise godly women and compare our lives to theirs with the desire to learn and grow. We also can make these comparisons in a sinful way that either leads us to feelings of discontent with what God has given us,  or on the flip-side that leads to a prideful overinflated view of ourselves.

As Christians women and missionary women, we are in no way immune to this temptation. With so many giftings, types of ministries, callings, convictions about how to live while on the field, levels of involvement, ways to educate our children, styles of parenting, etc., it is very easy to begin to look from side to side and compare ourselves to others. We can be tempted  also to evaluate how others measure up to our individual concept of what is ideal or right, even on issues not clearly defined in scripture.

In the city that we just moved from, there were several missions groups that participated in an intense language program during their first couple of years in country.  I often felt tempted to compare my language abilities to the missionaries that attended that program. When I would give in to that temptation sinfully it would lead to guilt and envy because other missionary moms had better Russian than I did, even though I had been there longer. It wasn’t a conviction to strive to improve my language skills. It was just plain accusation from Satan and guilt. When I was looking at this with the right perspective, however, it was a great motivator for me to study hard and to open my eyes to the opportunities God had given me in place of an intensive language course. I couldn’t have done that program and done the other things that He had called me to personally, so it it is simply sinful for me to feel envy and guilt over this and to subconsciously consider God’s unique calling on my life to be inferior.

I know I have felt the temptation to compare and get puffed up in other areas. One such example that I was just talking to a friend about is the topic of breastfeeding. We of course all have heard many times that breast milk is the most nutritious thing to feed our babies, and since I had such an easy time with my daughter, I often wondered why other moms ever opted not to nurse. Then my second came along and I had a horrible time of it. It was very humbling as I wanted to nurse but eventually had to surrender to the fact that God was going to provide nutrition for my son through formula instead. I had thrush, clogged ducts, lack of supply that wouldn’t respond to any sort of supplementation or frequent nursing plan, etc. By about month  5 or so my son was getting the bulk of his nutrition from formula. And you know what? He is a very healthy little boy! Though I still think nursing is the best nutrition for babies whenever possible, I have been taught by being humbled not to judge others in this and to praise God that there is great formula for the times when, for whatever reason, it is needed.

I know there are a ton of areas that we can feel this temptation to compare. The reality, though,  (and here I am speaking equally as much to my self as I am to anyone), is that the most valuable comparison that we can make is between the current reality of our own lives, and what God is calling us to through His word and individual calling. Of course we can also learn from other women’s godly example as well, but we must be on our guard for when this turns from a desire to learn and grow into things less godly.

I would love to hear your thoughts on comparison! How have you experienced this in your life? Do you have ways to encourage the rest of us in this challenge? How have you successfully battled these feelings?


3 Responses to “The Good and the Ugly of Comparison”

  1. 1 Keri June 8, 2009 at 6:34 am

    I am completing my first year overseas and realize how freeing I have felt about clothes here. I didn’t bring much with me because we didn’t have luggage space and as a result, have found that here I don’t care what people think about what I’m wearing. We are heading back to the U.S. for a month this summer and I am wondering what it will be like. Has my heart really changed about clothes/appearance comparison or will I feel the pressure again to be stylish and not repeat outfits two Sundays in a row (you know what I mean?) Comparing myself to those with more money, more stylish clothes, while trying to remember the true meaning of the word “need.”

  2. 2 kim June 8, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Wow, there’s a lot of food for thought here, Ashley. Thanks for a great post. And, yes, I struggle with this….though it seems to come and go in phases, you know? It’s so tempting to fall into comparison when my heart isn’t right with the Lord, when I’m discontent with what He has provided (whether that is material items, life situations, giftings, etc.), or when I’m just being down right judgmental. In addition, these feelings can fall on either end of the spectrum ranging from wanting to just viewing someone’s life judgmentally. My husband has (unknowingly) spoken wisdom into my heart about this in reminding me A LOT that we don’t really know other people’s situations, whether rich or poor or situationally, like viewing someone else’s pregnancy/breastfeeding situation (yes, I have struggled with comparison in that area too!) And, that has really helped to remind me that God is the One who is in control and He is the one who gives and takes away. He knows each of our situations Therefore, it is really not my place to even think such thoughts of others which only results in sin. I do like how you mentioned directing these thoughts/feelings to seeking to be challenged by and learn from others instead.

  3. 3 missionarywomen June 15, 2009 at 7:15 am

    Sometimes I can compare myself with other teammates/moms who do a lot more ministry outside of the home. I have to remind myself that being home with my daughter and serving my husband is the most important ministry I can have!

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