I have heard it said that "comparison is the thief of joy," and I know that to be true, indeed. Comparison often viciously leads a person by the neck to jealousy and discontentment, which are in the opposite direction of joy!
I have struggled with comparison since my early teenage years, and perhaps you have as well. Most girls, from the age of 12 or even younger, are aware of other girls' bodies, their complexion, their wardrobe and their popularity. These precious young women, who have been made in the image of God, compare themselves to others and find something sorely lacking. Preteens and teenagers do not have the emotional stability or the wisdom to fight their way out of the pit of jealousy and so they live there, bereft and lonely.
I, as an adult woman, no longer compare my popularity or my complexion to other women my age, but I do compare my family, my home, my weight and my retirement fund to others. When I realize that I lack something vital that others may possess, it is then that discouragement often chases me right back to the lonely pit that I so often camped out in during my teen years.
"For where there is envying and strife, there is confusion and every evil work" (James 3:16).
When you open your heart to envy and selfish ambition, which follow closely on the heels of comparison, you will decorate your life in an ugly and confusing manner. Nothing good comes from comparison, envy or selfishness—nothing at all.
It took a wise mentor to remind me that bitterness is a byproduct of jealousy and comparison. When I compare myself to someone else whose grass looks greener, whose flowers look brighter and whose smile seems bigger, it is likely that I will take on the characteristics of a bitter woman.
"See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled" (Heb. 12:15, NKJV).
When you look in the mirror that comparison holds up to your life, you will see a bitter woman staring back at you whose beauty has been destroyed. Bitterness and envy will cause you to act in ways that are contrary to God's nature; you will say things and do things that will cause havoc and destruction everywhere you go.
The healthier alternative to comparison is to bless the people with whom you formerly compared yourself. The best beauty treatment in the world is not going to a day spa, losing 50 pounds or buying a designer wardrobe. The most powerful makeover happens in a woman's life when she chooses contentment over envy and thanksgiving over jealousy.
I have learned, finally, in this season of my life to celebrate the life that I have been given and to extend praise and honor to those whose lives come in contact with mine. I have learned that one of the secrets to living a life filled with joy is found in embracing the virtues of contentment and thanksgiving. I have also discovered that I am a much more beautiful version of me when I choose to refrain from comparison and to seize gratitude.
Carol McLeod is an author and popular speaker at women's conferences and retreats, where she teaches the Word of God with great joy and enthusiasm. Carol encourages and empowers women with passionate and practical biblical messages mixed with her own special brand of hope and humor. She has written five books: No More Ordinary, Holy Estrogen!, The Rooms of a Woman's Heart, Defiant Joy! and Refined: Finding Joy in the Midst of the Fire. Her teaching DVD The Rooms of a Woman's Heart won the Telly Award, a prestigious industry award for excellence in religious programming.
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