A white Post-it® note has been on my desk for many months. On this note I wrote “Comparison is the thief of joy.” This quote was said by President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt and someone said it, or I saw it somewhere.
It seems that Theodore Roosevelt was someone who viewed life with a joyful attitude. Rarely do we see any photos where he was not giving an ear-to-ear grin to all those around him, which is unique when you hear the trials he experienced in his life. Losing his first wife and mother on the same day in 1884, Roosevelt regained his emotional footing while on his ranch in Dakota territory. He went on to be an admired lieutenant colonel during the Spanish-American War and became the youngest president in history when he became president in 1901.
I don’t know what exactly was happening in my life when I jotted this note down, but it must have triggered something within me or I would not have written it down or kept it on my desk. There have been many times since March that I have found myself comparing what I have been doing with and for the church to what other pastors were doing for their churches. Over time I realized how comparing myself to someone else has caused me anxiety, bitterness, envy, and many other emotions.
Although these words from President Roosevelt are insightful, long before they were said by him the concept of comparison was a topic in the Bible.
The apostle Paul was one who dealt with comparison before Christ intervened on the Road to Damascus and numerous times throughout scripture other words and stories are written about how people compare themselves to others.
Paul discusses the importance of identifying spiritual gifts given to us by God as different and unique among one another in his letter to the Romans: “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them; if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith;” (Rom. 12:6). Paul is saying that our gifts are supposed to be different because we are all different, and yet we are the same as images of Christ. In terms of our gifts, just as God gives us the grace we don’t deserve, we are given gifts we don’t deserve and should use them in ways God wants done instead of ways that might mimic the actions of others.
So, how do we get to the point of being content with who we are and stop the comparisons we make. Blair Parke is a freelance writer for BibleStudyTools.com and editor for Xulon Press. He writes “there are ways to keep comparison at bay, or removed altogether, and they can be as simple as the changing of your thoughts from a previous mindset to a new one.”
Parke continues “make a physical list of areas in your life where comparison is the strongest: marital status, career, material resources, spiritual gifts, etc. This will help you come to terms with where you find comparison to rear its ugly head.
Secondly, write names of those you find yourself comparing your life to and list the areas you compare yourself to them. This is not a list to make fun of them or have hurtful thoughts toward them, but to be more aware of the comparisons you are making.”
“Thirdly, remind yourself that you and that person are in equal need of Jesus saving grace.”
“Fourth, search the Bible and reflect on what the scripture has to say about comparisons and finally, whenever you feel comparisons rise up again, pray about the situation, person, or feeling asking God’s strength and discernment to free you from the trap of comparison.”
Comparison is, in fact, a thief of joy, as Theodore Roosevelt said, but it does not need to be a constant battle.
Comparison may have stolen moments of joy in your past, but it does not need to steal your present and future state of joy.
Give thanks this month, even in the midst of this season of a pandemic.
Blessing to you,