There I stood with my face pressed up against the fence between my hands clutching the chain links longingly. I don’t know how often I did it, often enough that it infuriated my mother. Our neighbor had parties, some of which were birthday parties, other events were fun family get to gathers. And I always gravitated to the fence to watch, while they laughed and chased each other in the yard. My mom would yell at me from the dusty screen door, “Stop being a pet bear and get in here right now!” I didn’t understand her anger or the ruddiness of my stares–my pet bear antics. I was envious and wanted to be a part of the fun, the excitement, none of which was happening at my house. So I stared enviously at my next door neighbor and when I got inside my Mother glared angrily at me for a reason that only maturity would give me insight.
Pet Bear is what she called it. But envy is what God called it. I wanted to be on the other side of that fence. My wishing only led to gloomy feelings of poor me and anger at my mom that she wouldn’t let the staring and gawking continue. The days of staring like a “Pet Bear” at the chained link fence are behind me, but I still fight the “Pet Bear Syndrome”. The syndrome of wishing I was on the other side of the fence. You know, I wish I had their ministry success, their looks, their money, their house, their car…maybe the Bible has a different name for it…envy, covetous…all of which are rooted in comparison.
I understand the necessity of comparison shopping. It is essential to finding the best value at the lowest price. But why would we, and we all do it, throw ourselves into the fray of a comparison contest with others. The secret mental competition that produces only losers. I’m not as good at mothering as she is…. I’m not as good a provider as he is…. I’m not as pretty as she is…. And the competition continues in our mind from person to person and issue to issue. Sometimes the competition inflates our ego and sometimes it defeats it. Because the reality is, there is always somebody somewhere that is better at something and worse at something than we are.
And just how does having the most expensive car or best dish at the cook off benefit anyone–unless there is a real prize at stake of course? How does being the prettiest or having the best abs make anyone better than someone else? I understand healthy competition can make us more creative and stretch us to new heights, but for the most part our comparison goes beyond healthy all the way to destructive, if we are not careful. It causes us to build walls around our flaws to keep them out of view instead of allowing the strength of others flow into our lives. Or it puffs our ego until we look down on the bumbling efforts of others in our area of superiority.
Theodore Roosevelt said “Comparison is the thief of joy.” And the problem with this picture is, I open the door for my joy to be stolen when I compare myself with others. That’s just wrong! Wrong I tell you. I shut the door to keep out flies. I shut the door to keep out little stray dogs that want inside. I shut the door to keep out intruders, but I open the door for my joy to be stolen? That’s just wrong. And I refuse to do it!
I have found that God designed each of us with both strengths and weaknesses. Our strengths give us something to give. Our weaknesses can be a window or a door for us to receive. An opportunity to grow, be enriched by God and others. Our weakness, though painful can be like the cut place that a vine keeper makes in a grape vine, so that it can receive a healthy graft. God designed us to need each other. Our weakness is an opportunity to be grafted into a body of believers for support and strength. While comparison only isolates us.
There are some things you can’t change. But the things you can change and that need to change, should change. You can change your thoughts. You can change your attitude, especially when it comes to comparion thinking. Compare cars or sweaters, but not yourself. Comparison is a thief I’m going be looking out for!
1 Timothy 6:6 KJV “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”
Galatians 6:4 NLT “Be sure to do what you should, for then you will enjoy the personal satisfaction of having done your work well, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.”
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