Comparison Redeemed

I’ve thought a bit recently about comparison, and the trouble it can cause. Most of us have heard the quote from Theodore Roosevelt – “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Why is that?

It is said that when we compare ourselves to others, we either raise ourselves above them in pride, or we sink below them in despair or perhaps envy.

I think this is a particular struggle for women, because we are such social creatures. We are constantly seeing ourselves in relation to other women. It is impossible not to compare.

And I don’t think this is a bad thing. I think there is a third way, “comparison redeemed”, if you will.

If we are truly content in Christ, finding our identity and satisfaction in Him, and when we see other people through His eyes, then we don’t need to be afraid of comparison with other women.

If we notice a woman who is more proficient than us in a certain area, in humility we can thank God for her good example. If we notice a woman who is struggling in some way, we can pray for her, knowing that we are no more or less than her in God’s eyes. And we may have opportunity to come alongside her with some practical help at some point.

Something my Mum often modelled for me growing up is the way she sought out good examples in other women, and applied what she learnt to her life. She was, and is, always looking for other women who did things better than her. Not so she could despair or envy them, but so that she could improve.

She was always being inspired by other women, and is herself an inspiration to many.

As I think over all the women in my life, I can think of specific women who inspire me in:

  • their faith in God and dedication to studying His word
  • their home management skills
  • their great sense of style
  • their cooking skills
  • the way they approach parenting
  • the way they selflessly serve others

Of course none of us will be perfect, we all have strengths and weaknesses. We all have particular sins we struggle with.

But I don’t think it helps anyone if we are so afraid of comparison that we miss opportunities for personal growth, or for aiding another woman in her personal growth.

In Christ, we are all equal. So let’s compare notes, and grow in Christ together.

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4 thoughts on “Comparison Redeemed

  1. I like this idea “comparison redeemed”. I tend to struggle with an “all or nothing mentality”, “throw the baby out with the bathwater” type of thing. And in doing so have likely missed out on valuable teaching and examples. It’s a struggle to “take what you need and leave the rest” for me, but knowing this, it is something I actively focus on. No one is perfect and God gives certain gifts to some and different ones to others. To give you an example, you know I spend a lot of time researching health and nutrition. So often political perspectives or religious (or lack of) perspectives are tossed in along with valuable information. In a perfect world I could find access to discerning and wise Christians who know all I need to learn about health and nutrition. Instead I have to sift through some (in my opinion) really weird crap to find nuggets of scientific evidence regarding body systems, anatomy, and food science. The same is true for any interest one seeks to learn about.

    Thanks for the reminder to continue to seek out those who do things better or know more and to sit at their feet to learn (about that particular thing) without being turned off by what they don’t do better or don’t know more about.

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  2. Very well written! One of the things that has given me pause with some Titus mentorship women. It’s a vibe of “this is how to be virtuous and godly and other women who are out of step are to be avoided.” It is not a good way to approach our Christian sisters who are clearly trying, no matter how imperfectly. And when we think we stand securely and perfectly, we’re probably about to step over an unseen precipice.

    There is such a wealth to be learned from other women without having to be best buds, without that meaning you agree with them on every issue and that you think they do everything right, or that you do everything right yourself.

    I used to share on my old blog that the woman who first gave me a clue on how to run a smooth enough home was a married woman with 6 kids who worked full time, *gasp*. It was a revelation to me because my own (step) mother, who worked full time, modeled for me how to squeak by with just enough done to keep the house from falling into chaos, LOL.

    My mother was and is though, a model for extending one’s hands to the poor and the needy and I thank God that she kept me from prideful haughtiness and an embracing of the American gospel that all poor people are lazy. See? Just one example.

    I have been fortunate to encounter many women who are good at many different things and learn and have had several women through the years testify of things they learned from me. Your mother sounds like a well grounded, secure woman, and a rare gem SS. You were blessed.

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  3. When I think of comparison stealing joy, I think of scrutiny. Sometimes it comes from others, but it often comes from within me. There seem to be two issues that cause comparison to steal my joy. One is the purpose for the comparison (eg. covetousness). The other is about identity ( not liking to see myself as lacking, somehow). Aside from that, it is so common to compare one person’s strengths against another’s weaknesses. This hurts especially when one person is trying to find their value by comparing the two.

    I don’t think it’s really a matter of redeeming comparison, but changing our motives. Do we admire God’s work in our brother or sister, and aspire to be more like Him? Or are we being selfish, covetous, or whatever?

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  4. @Elspeth,
    “Your mother sounds like a well grounded, secure woman, and a rare gem SS. You were blessed.”
    Yes, she is wonderful, certainly not perfect, but if I can grow up to be half the woman she is, I will be pleased!

    @Lover of Israel,
    “Aside from that, it is so common to compare one person’s strengths against another’s weaknesses.”
    Yes, or the reverse. I have often heard it said that spending large amounts of time on social media can make us feel depressed because we are comparing everyone else’s highlights to our bloopers reel.

    “I don’t think it’s really a matter of redeeming comparison, but changing our motives. Do we admire God’s work in our brother or sister, and aspire to be more like Him?”
    But that’s all I mean by redeeming comparison… Are we willing to compare ourselves with others, find ourselves deficient, and praise God for the opportunity to grow?
    We can compare with pure motives, and come out better for it.

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