THE TRAP OF COMPARISON
I will never forget my first teaching job. I had graduated at semester and was hired to be a long-term sub for a teacher who was going on maternity leave. It was the perfect scenario for a December graduate. The school was in an upper middle-class area, starkly different from my student teaching experience. The elementary school was new, and the grade level classrooms were in pods. There were three classrooms per grade level. We did not have a door, and the wide entrance to our rooms faced a circular area connected to a hallway. Each classroom had floor to ceiling bulletin board walls, and the ceilings were high!
I was so excited about decorating my room to create a warm and inviting atmosphere for the students who were probably stressed about getting a new teacher after Christmas! It didn’t take long for me to become overwhelmed. As you all know, when you first start out, you don’t have many resources, and in those days, we didn’t have classroom budgets.
I wanted my room to look just as fabulous as the rooms on both sides of me. It was virtually impossible. Both of my teaching partners had been teaching for years, and to make things worse, neither one of them had to work. They seemed to have unlimited funds, and it showed. Their rooms were a sight to behold. I almost burned out in six months.
Today, this scenario wouldn’t bother me, but back then I was young, inexperienced, poor, and caught in the trap of comparison. I suppose it isn’t so different today. In fact, the trap of comparison may be even more dangerous as social media provides a never-ending opportunity for us to compare every aspect of our lives—even our Christian walk.
Comparison is dangerous. Comparison is the devil’s way of diverting our attention toward others and away from Jesus. When our focus turns toward others, we can find ourselves falling into one of two traps: pride and/or shame. Let me illustrate.
If I go back to the scenario above regarding my first classroom, it was obvious pride and shame were both at work. My pride caused me to over-work to the point of exhaustion. I was developing an unhealthy competitive attitude. Although I hadn’t done anything wrong, my room simply didn’t look as flashy as the other two, and I was ashamed. All the while I lost sight of what was really important. Instead of getting discouraged or competitive, I should have focused on some truths from God’s Word.
Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to Him through God the Father. Colossians 3:17
Whatever you do, do your work heartily as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Colossians 3:23-24
While any type of comparison can trap us, I feel the most dangerous form of comparison comes when we compare our spiritual walk with the calling or gifting of a fellow Christian. This is so easy to do! I’m sure most of you know someone who you feel is very spiritual, and you probably have thought, “I wished I could be like them” or “I wished my faith was that strong.” Perhaps you follow one of the famous Christian leaders on social media (e.g., Beth Moore, Tony Evans, Christine Caine, Max Lucado, Priscilla Shirer), and you long to be as spiritual and knowledgeable as they are.
When we fall into the trap of comparison, we can become ashamed of who we are, turning our eyes toward individuals and not keeping our eyes on Jesus. We forget our “models” are flawed humans just like us. Don’t get me wrong; we can learn a great deal from Godly people. God uses fellow believers to minister to us, and for that I am grateful. However, we must be careful not to fall into the trap of comparison and lose sight of our walk with the Lord and what God can do in OUR lives. After all, our journey with Christ is ours. It belongs to no one else.
While many of us may feel “less than” when looking at other spiritual leaders, we can also fall into the trap of comparison via pride. How many of us have looked at other Christians and thought, “Well, at least I am not as bad as they are” or “They are not being obedient to God’s Word like I am.” While it is okay to feel proud of our accomplishments, pride takes a dangerous turn when we elevate ourselves to a place of superiority over others. The climate in today’s spiritual circles seems to be full of judgement. We would do well to remember these words of wisdom.
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Romans 3:23
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Romans 5:6
Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Proverbs 11:2
Avoiding the trap of comparison isn’t easy. The enemy of our souls continually sews seeds of shame and pride in our minds. It is his sole desire to defeat us. It’s time to fight back. As Christians our only point of comparison should be Jesus. He alone is our standard.
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. I Corinthians 11:1
Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. Ephesians 5:1
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. I Peter 2:21
Comparing ourselves to Christ—to God’s standard for mankind—will lead us on a path of spiritual growth. Comparing ourselves to others will lead to sin and defeat. Be careful. Don’t fall into the trap of comparison.
So, all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:18