The Comparison Trap
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:25-26 (NRSV)
Driving back to my office after my lunch break, I noticed two billboards directly across the road from each other. One was an ad for personal training sessions at a nearby gym. The other was touting the enticing flavors of milkshakes at a local eatery.
I had to laugh. Isn’t that just the way things are going these days? Be the epitome of fitness and the portrait of bodily perfection. But also treat yourself because you deserve it.
My Instagram feed feels pretty much the same. Images of fit, healthy friends and ads for every fitness trick in the book mingle with photos of insanely drippy cheeseburgers and ice cream cones just waiting to be devoured. And then there are the gorgeous influencers with their perfect outfits poised with their coffee cups, leaning casually against a brick wall covered with ivy and flowers.
Run, run, run. Eat, eat, eat. Do it all while being perfectly fashionable, a good mom, a model employee, and a dutiful wife.
As I scroll, I try to remain positive. I'm a relatively smart girl and tend to know when I'm being sold. In my heart, I know behind every image of a woman who looks perfect and like she has it all together is a woman who struggles with some of the same things I do, and perhaps more. But there’s a sliver of me that gets jealous, bitter and snarky.
Before I know it, I'm spiraling downward. The sliver of jealousy becomes a slice. The slice becomes a giant slab. And in a matter of minutes, that relatively smart girl who was just taking a 5-minute break to check Instagram is trying to figure out why she has a chip on her shoulder and a rock in the pit of her stomach.
It's a tricky trap. As women, we are fed good messages of girl power, lifting one another up and cheering one another on. But sometimes those cheers can feel thin and hollow — unless we truly believe that a win for one of us is a win for all of us.
We have to be prepared to process these feelings rationally and through a lens of grace.
One of the themes of the book of Galatians is Christian freedom. Paul explains to the Galatians that human desires can take us captive and the way to release the hold of these is to “live by the Spirit”: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:25-26). But how in the world are we supposed to go from that undercurrent of envy to a genuine feeling of kindness and generosity toward those who get our jealousy juices flowing?
Something tells me Paul’s message was not a one-and-done pep talk. Asking the Holy Spirit for help when facing the yucky feelings of jealousy and envy help them melt away. When we’re free from the burden of watering sour seeds of envy and resentment, we have the space to grow our own unique strengths. But this is a constant conversation which requires ongoing practice.
I take great comfort in knowing my value and worth have absolutely nothing to do with how glossy (or threadbare) my exterior is at any given moment. My value and worth have much more to do with the fact that, while imperfect, I’m still perfectly loved. Asking the Holy Spirit for help in curbing my negative thoughts allows me to acknowledge God’s perfect path set forth just for me, and opens the capacity to celebrate alongside others.
Dear Heavenly Father, please help me extinguish my bitterness and resentment when I’m bombarded with feelings of inadequacy. Please remind me to carry on a continuous conversation with You that will, in time, replace my negative feelings with the fruit of the Spirit. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Galatians 5:16-17, “Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.” (NRSV)
Galatians 5:22-24, “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (NRSV)
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REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Have you ever found yourself harboring resentment toward someone due to what they have or how they look? Try to catch yourself doing this, and immediately ask the Holy Spirit to help guide you.
When do you tend to compare yourself to others? What are ways God has helped you to combat negative thoughts or feelings? Share your thoughts in the comments!
© 2019 by Kelly Barbrey. All rights reserved.