Last week for Valentine’s Day, my second child needed to decorate a mailbox and bring it to school for all of his valentines. No problem, I thought, he and I can have a blast decorating a little shoe box for him to take.
The night before it needed to be at school, I found a little shoe box and wrapped it in some pretty polka-dotted wrapping paper, cutting a slit in the top. Then I gave some markers and stickers to my son and let him decorate, thinking he’d go nuts with the stickers.
He put one sticker on, and wrote his name. That’s it.
“Do you want to add more decorations?” I asked, chuckling at his little mailbox.
I shrugged. After all, it’s his box, isn’t it? He can decorate it as he sees fit.
Only later, after taking him to school, was I bothered. My son brought his little shoe box in next to mailboxes in the shapes of trucks, robots, and castles. Suddenly, I felt like a terrible mom. A mom who wasn’t devoted enough to make a really cool mailbox.
I felt inadequate. I felt less.
I think it’s very tempting for all of us to get hung up on what we “don’t” do that other moms are doing. We compare. All. The. Time.
Sometimes the comparison leads us to feel like I did: inadequate and like a bad mom. Sometimes the comparison leads us to feel jealous and judgmental. In either situation, comparison leads us down a very dangerous and disastrous path.
It Steals Our Joy
Remember when you were a kid and were promised ice cream after dinner? You were so happy and excited, but when the ice cream was served, what was the first thing you did? You immediately looked at your siblings’ bowls to see how much they got. Suddenly, all the happiness and excitement about ice cream was replaced by righteous indignation because “they got more than you!”
How easily we let something like comparison steal our joy! The mere act of taking our eyes off of our own blessings to look at what someone else has always turns us into that little kid with ice cream: “Theirs is better than mine!” We can be so happy about our life, but when we look at someone else’s, all that joy is sucked out of our lives.
It Produces Feelings of Inadequacy
Whether it’s a Valentine’s Day mailbox or clothing or activities or whatever, motherhood is rife with opportunities to compare. And often times, we’re left feeling like we aren’t good enough as a mom. Somebody else can dress their child better or make a better birthday treat or chaperone all the field trips. Somebody else’s baby sleeps through the night or walks early. Somebody else’s house is always clean and organized.
When we start comparing, we focus on only what we are unable, unwilling, or unequipped to do. This leaves us feeling like we are a failure as a mom. If other moms are able to get their kids to eat vegetables, why can’t I? If other moms are able to make cool, crafty things to sell on Etsy, why can’t I? If other moms can keep their house clean, why can’t I? There must be something wrong with me.
It Creates Jealousy
Those feelings of inadequacy, if left unchecked, soon turn into one nasty, green-eyed monster. Jealousy is a horrible companion, and can turn even the nicest person into something vindictive. Jealousy can makes us judgey and gossipy: “She makes a six figure income; I could too if I never saw my children.” “Of course she can make an awesome Valentine’s mailbox, she has nothing else to do. Some of us actually work.”
Hear how nasty that is? Anytime we compare ourselves and feel inadequate, we immediately let sin into our hearts and turn into vicious, gossipy, and ugly women that tear each other down.
It Wears Us Out
We are all familiar with the phrase: Keeping up with the Joneses. We have this idea that we have to be just as good or better than the person next to us. It’s a rat race, mom-style. Who has the smartest kid? Who has the best minivan? Susan got her kid a brand new bike for his birthday, I have to get my kid a bike. She did that, so I have to. She did this, so I have to…..
We’re chasing something we can never get! We end up like a rat in a wheel: running and running and getting nowhere but exhausted. Because, to be honest, we can’t keep up. We can’t keep up with what everyone else seems to be doing, because we aren’t living their lives. You have your life. That’s it. You have your life that you get to prioritize, spend time in, and decide what you love and what’s important to you.
It Leads to Coveting
The ninth and tenth commandments speak very strongly about wanting something that you don’t have. And that’s exactly what we do when we start to compare and judge someone else’s life. Whether because we want the free time that a stay-at-home mom has, or we want the fit body that a working-out mom has. It doesn’t matter. It all stems from the same ugly place of sin.
God has blessed you with your life. Exactly as it is and exactly where he wants you. And comparison can suddenly take your eyes off of being grateful for your own life and covet what someone else has.
Comparison is a deadly trap that is so easy to fall into. When tempted to start comparing, try instead to focus on contentment, gratitude, and encouragement.
We have every reason to be content with whatever gifts, materials, talents, and time we been blessed with. God has promised to love us, provide for us, watch over us and guide us. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God! We lack for nothing! Whatever we have or don’t have, we have enough!
Something wonderful happens when you practice gratitude. It touches every part of your soul and helps you realize that you are SURROUNDED with blessings! There’s no room for comparing and feelings of inadequacy when you focus on your healthy family or your comfortable house or your relationship with your husband or the love of your Savior!
Practice Encouraging Others
Living your life full of contentment and gratitude gives you the confidence and love to encourage others. Encouragement is like a ripple affect: it starts small and grows bigger and bigger. We need to encourage each other! Building each other up not only spreads love and joy, but it gives someone a much needed boost.
For example, anytime someone comments or shares or thanks me for a blog post, it is so encouraging! I’m terrified to write and put my thoughts and life and ministry out there to be judged. And it’s such a boost to me mentally and emotionally, that I want to spread that to others! Life and motherhood are hard enough without throwing gossiping and dissension everywhere.
We have enough to deal with simply surviving the day sometimes that we don’t need to add on another area of stress and worry to our lives. We can be content with what we have, and be joyful for those who have a different set of priorities and gifts. We can gives thanks to God for all that he has blessed us with. We can encourage each other and find confidence in our God-given skills and talents.
What is your biggest challenge in fighting comparison? How do you like to encourage others? Please share with someone who needs to hear!