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  • Mark A. Howell

Comparison: The Thief of Joy

Okay, I’ll admit it—I love my Apple Watch. Now, among its many cool features, one of the things that I value the most is its ability to track my workouts. In fact, I use it religiously to track my morning runs. It tells me, among other things, my distance, time, pace, and calories burned.


A few months ago, I went for a run on a beautiful, crisp, spring morning. It was one of those “rare” days when I felt as if I could run forever. After running for a much longer time and greater distance than normal, I gleefully glanced at my activity tracker to see what personal records I obliterated that day. It was then when the unthinkable had happened. There was no record of my run. I failed to turn it on when I started!


Now, if you ever had that happen, you will know the sick feeling that I experienced that day. Despite running both longer and further than I ever had before, there was no record of my run. It was as if the run never happened!

The desire to measure and track one’s progress is not a bad thing. Comparing the distance, time, or pace of one run with another helps us to evaluate our progress and look for areas of improvement. Comparison isn’t usually a bad thing. But it can be—especially when we become consumed with comparing ourselves with others.


It’s no accident that Teddy Roosevelt called comparison “the thief of joy.” Look what our obsession with comparisons will do. We will always find someone who has more friends than we do. We will undoubtedly discover someone whose career is advancing faster than ours. And we will most certainly encounter someone on social media who has more “likes” or followers than we do. The list goes on and on.


When we choose to compare ourselves with others, we create a false measuring stick. We choose to measure our own worthiness by the perceived success that we see in others. There is a big problem with this: God measures us not by our influence but by His intention. God creates with intention. He created you to be you—not someone else. And He evaluates you based on His purposes for you, not the purposes that He has for someone else.


Think about it this way. When David faced Goliath, he chose not to compare himself with Goliath. Had he chosen to do that, he surely would have viewed himself as small, insignificant, and incapable. The biblical story that brings us so much encouragement would have an entirely different ending. Thankfully, David didn’t compare himself with Goliath. Instead, David chose to compare Goliath to His God. When David viewed Goliath through God and His purposes, suddenly his task, though not easy, was achievable.


The strengths and successes that we see in others, and that so often preoccupy our thoughts, only serve to magnify the weakness that we see in us. Comparison will steal your joy every time. Remember that God never sees others as better than us—He sees others as different than us. He is an intentional God, and He has a separate plan for each of us.


Instead of looking at others as the measure of your worth, why not measure your life by how passionately and faithfully you are pursuing what God called you to do. Let Paul’s words to the Corinthian believers soak into your own soul, and then find out and pursue what God has called YOU to do. Stop comparing yourself to everyone around you, and get busy in pursuing the journey that God has laid out for you.


“Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us.…. ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’ For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10:12-18).

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