Finding a Way Around The Temptation
Written by Andrea Stephens
Life has had me living in several different states over the years.
With each new location, I have had to look for the positives with the goal of learning to embrace where I was living. This didn’t come naturally; I seriously had to challenge myself. This was especially true when I moved to a small town in South Louisiana. They talked with such a drawl. They referred to “making” groceries and cooking up a pot of red beans and rice specifically on Mondays since it was cleaning day and they wouldn’t have time to fuss with dinner. I was missing the palm trees from my last location. So, I purposely learned about bald Cypress trees and the Spanish moss that hung from them. I also took a liking to nearby New Orleans with its jazz music, beignets (French donuts), and artists around Jackson Square. However, one event caught my eye—the Crescent City Classic. This well known 10K was not just any hometown race, it was one that welcomed costumes, marching bands, and dressed up dogs. The route would take us through neighborhoods that promised to be lined with festive folks cheering us on from their front porch swings.
Now, I am not a runner, but the idea of walking the 6.2 miles with a group of friends just to enjoy the experience sounded perfect. We got signed up, dressed up, lined up, and took off at the blast of the starter’s gun. I was excited, full of laughter, snapping selfies and pictures of the craziness going on around me. As I strolled along, friends at my side, a little something started to bother me. I was being passed. And not just by the more athletic types but by women with strollers and dogs in tutus. The bothering increased. Then a cackling couple of elderly ladies wearing PJs, fuzzy slippers, and big pink rollers in their hair went flying by! That was it. No more. Something in me snapped and the leisurely fun walk with my friends went out the window. I just could not allow myself to be passed any longer by anyone not sporting a serious pair of Nike’s. I quickened my step, ditched my slow companions, and kicked it into high gear. To my left, to my right—I was now watching for anyone who even thought they might make their way to my side. Never mind the blisters I could feel forming on my toes and the pain in my right knee (I did mention that I’m not a runner, right?), I forged ahead until my very winded self crossed that finish line.
Funny thing, I was no longer in a celebratory mood. And, I was also by myself since my friends stuck with the original plan of walking the race and enjoying the journey. Standing there alone, questions started rolling in. What just happened to me? Where did that competitive urge come from? Why did I feel compelled to keep others from passing me by? How could I have ditched my friends to feed the growing feeling inside of me? The answer? I had fallen right into the comparison trap.
As clearly demonstrated on that festive New Orleans morning, comparison can shift our focus. Like a thief, it sneaks in when we least expect, steals our confidence and robs us of self-acceptance. When we compare our value to the value of someone else we usually find ourselves lacking. Instead of being content with who we are and where we are in our own life, comparison has us looking at her haircut, her toned thighs, her put together kids, her shiny new SUV, her husband’s promotion, her flawless complexion, her fabulous vacation, on and on with endless options.
Looking too long at her can spiral down into all kinds of ugly. It definitely does not bring out the best in us. In fact, the scripture calls comparison unwise—that’s a nice way of saying it’s just plain stupid! For instance, comparison leads to jealousy. There is nothing good about that, especially when it leads to bitterness and a critical spirit. Leah and Rachel, two sisters whose story is found in Genesis 29 and 30, perfectly illustrate this downward progression. Due to their trickster father and no fault of their own, they wound up married to the same man, Jacob. It’s no secret that Jacob adored Rachel, leaving Leah unloved. But God enabled Leah to give
Jacob the one thing that Rachel could not—babies! Leah hoped that giving Jacob children would win his heart so that she would finally feel loved and valued. Yet with every new birth, Rachel’s spirit of comparison intensified the jealousy toward her sister. It led to her desperate demand of Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” Jacob defended himself saying, “Am I God? He is the only one able to give you children!” But rather than praying and waiting on God, Rachel came up with a plan. She reasoned that if she gave Jacob her servant, Bilhah, and if Bilhah had kids, Rachel would take them as her own. Isn’t it amazing what us women can come up with to make ourselves look and feel better about our lives? Rachel’s cockeyed scheme got her what she wanted. In fact, Bilhah had two sons, which thrilled Rachel making her think she was winning the baby race. But not so. Leah followed Rachel’s poor example and gave her servant, Zilpah, to Jacob to make more babies. Phew! Talk about a blended family! Eventually Jacob had 12 sons by 4 different women all because of jealousy.
Scripture is very clear about jealousy. It wreaks havoc in our lives. “For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every kind of evil.” (James 3:16). In talking to the immature believers at the church in Corinth, Paul says, “You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t this prove you are controlled by your own desires? You are acting like people who don’t belong to the Lord.” Jealousy and selfish ambition (wanting what we want with little regard for others) are red flags for those of us who want to live as true examples of Christ. They tell us we are comparing ourselves to someone or something else and we need to stop it. We need to examine it, figure out the cause, and take it to the Lord so He can heal it.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Leah and Rachel’s story had a happy ending? This unfortunate competition between them resulted in a bitter, broken relationship between sisters. This was not God’s best for them. It could have been so different. Instead, it caused their children to be just like them. Comparison and jealousy among their children lead to the betrayal of Joseph by his brothers. Thankfully their story ended in forgiveness and reconciliation, a lesson they could have taught their mothers.
I’m thankful the sisters didn’t have social media, which of course, fuels a spirit of comparison. Filters, lighting, cropping—it allows for deceptively perfect posts that threaten to deflate us and even infect us with a case of paranoia. It’s easy to start thinking my posts look pathetic—my life is pathetic—I am pathetic! This shame-based line of thinking leads many women into a depressed attitude of why try? and for some, why live? The pressure and the lies, spinning in your brain repeatedly, not only steals your peace, joy, and contentment but worse than all that–the belief that God really loves you. Trust me, the enemy is doing a happy dance when he finally has you at this point of despair. After all, this was his goal. For Satan, whatever causes you and me to doubt the goodness of God gets chalked up as a win in his playbook.
It’s just not worth it. But it’s just not going to go away on its own. So, how do we stop playing the comparison game? The important thing is that we make an intentional decision about how we’re going to react when we recognize it in our lives. Here is a list of suggestions on how to deal when the temptation to compare is lurking around your heart.
Give them a try.
- Celebrate her blessings and successes.
- Realize that you don’t know her back-story. Until we really get to know someone, we see their put together self and their life highlights on Instagram but we don’t know what’s behind her smiling face. The truth is, everyone is going through something.
- Embrace what you value. This is what brings meaning and purpose to your life. It is part of what makes you, you! Beware of comparison diminishing what brings you joy and fuels your passion.
- Pay attention to your self-talk. It’s a proven fact that our thoughts directly affect our feelings which can then affect our behavior. Listen to what you are saying to yourself. As scripture instructs us, take your negative thoughts captive—lock them up and throw away the key. Then replace them with positive thoughts.
- Take a break from social media. This will help you wholeheartedly lean into your own story and concentrate on being the best you.
- Practice gratitude. Keeping a gratitude journal will keep your heart attuned to the good in your life.
- Grant grace to yourself and encouragement to others.
- Compliment someone on the very thing that is tempting you to go green with jealousy.
- Be your own kind of beautiful. Let’s be honest, women are the worst at comparing their looks. It’s very freeing when we embrace our unique look and learn to thank God for His perfect design for us.
- Change your audience. Make God your audience of One. Let’s heed Paul’s words to the early church and set our minds on things above while fixing our eyes on Jesus.
When our eyes are in a love-lock with His, we won’t be looking around comparing ourselves to her!
A friend recently shared this thought with me: A flower does not think of comparing itself with the flowers around it—it just blooms! Let’s do the same to the glory of God.