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The Thief in Our Midst

As a child, everything I did, I compared to one of my brothers. Being the youngest of three, I had a distinct advantage, always watching and learning from their successes and more often times, their mistakes. Don’t get me wrong, I made plenty of mistakes myself. But it was the ongoing competition to win my parent’s approval (or just to be the best at whatever I was doing) that drove my daily behavior.

I learned this competition and comparison at an early age. I don’t know how or why. It was simply a part of life. And often times the habit didn’t stay within the family. Who had the better bike, me or my friend? Who had a better yard to play in, better toy, or nicer house. I can remember certain annual arguments me and my brothers would pick with my parents, “Why don’t I get an allowance?” “Why can’t we get cable?” “Do I have to take the crawdads back to the creek?” (Strange, I know!) It always seemed like all the other kids got more freedom, more toys, and more money. Just plain more! I couldn’t understand why we didn’t have what others had.

This mentality seeps into every aspect of our community life. Some would argue competition is a good thing. I do not disagree at all! Competition improves individual and team performance. It motivates and inspires us. It helps prices stay low. Competition helps us become better. Unfortunately, competition leads to comparison, and comparison, well…comparison is where we get in trouble.

Recently, one of our college students tweeted a quote I had never heard before. “Comparison is the thief of all joy.” Wow! Upon reading it, I instantly went through some of the ways that I am stuck comparing my life to others. Even now as an adult, I regularly consider how my lifestyle compares to others, and it’s not healthy at all. What do you find yourself comparing? The yard, car or house? Where you vacation? Your kids and their successes? It’s so tempting and easy to do. Fortunately, God has gifted us uniquely. And when we aren’t satisfied or grateful for what we’ve been given, we yearn for the things of this world, the things that will leave us empty and broken. “If the foot would say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.” (1 Corinthians 12:15-16, NRSV) It seems naïve or idealistic to imagine our culture without the habit of comparison, but we are robbing ourselves of joy.

May we see the thief coming before it’s too late. May we understand that who we are and what we have is more than enough. May we all flourish amidst the confidence of God’s ever-present acceptance and forgiveness. And may we attempt to transform our communities into places of contentment and not comparison.