Avoiding the Comparison Trap: 4 Practices to Help Win the Battle of Contentment
Last year my wife and I made the decision to reduce our summer family vacation budget by twenty-five percent. With a little planning we were able to return to our favorite destination by changing accommodations and eating out at different restaurants. The condo we rented didn’t come with an ocean-view, but it was nicely furnished and only five-hundred yards from the beach. I was quite content getting up early, eating breakfast and enjoying an extended quiet-time on the garden-view patio of our condo. That is, until I saw my Pastor friend’s social media post: “Not a bad place for my Quiet Time” with a picture taken from his ocean view vacation rental. How’s that for a contentment buster? Next thing you know I’m comparing my vacation to his vacation and questioning our new budget.
We live in a culture of constant comparison. We measure ourselves against the people around us to determine our success. A mom looks at Pinterest, and comes away with her greatest fears confirmed: her kids look shabby, her house looks dumpy, and her clothes look frumpy. A dad feels okay with his paid-for 10-year-old carpet-stained mini-van until he gets in the carpool line behind someone driving a brand new luxury SUV. According to your social-media feed, your monotonous boring existence is a poor excuse for living when you compare it to others whose lives are apparently exciting all the time. The temptation to compare yourself to others is lurking around every corner.
Comparison is a game everybody plays, but nobody ever wins. If you are tired of playing the comparison game and struggling with contentment, then maybe it’s time to make a few changes. The Bible has a lot to say about this topic. Here are four practices that will move you towards a life of greater contentment.
1. Be grateful for what you do have.
Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, reflect on what you do have and thank God for it. There is no room for discontentment in a heart filled with gratitude. If you struggle with contentment, then you might consider starting a gratitude journal. Build a running list of the things you are grateful for by adding 2 or 3 entries every day. You will be less likely to compare when you are reminded of all that God has given you.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess. 5:18)
2. Give what you have to help others.
Be willing to share what God has given you with others. It’s hard to be preoccupied with what you don’t have, when you are busy serving someone in need. Find ways to give your time, money and talents to make a difference in someone else’s life.
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:38)
3. Celebrate the success of others.
Be excited for others when they succeed. Stop thinking, “I wish it were me” and start saying, “I’m happy for you.” There isn’t much room for jealousy and envy in your heart when you are cheering someone on. We are a part of the body of Christ, so we all win when they win. We shouldn’t hesitate to celebrate when others are blessed.
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Cor. 12:26)
4. Put your hope in God, not in achievements or material possessions.
Have you ever found yourself thinking, “If I could just get that (job, house, spouse, college degree, etc.), I would be happier”? Usually, you find yourself wanting more after achieving that goal. Placing your hope in “things” will never fully and finally satisfy. No matter how much money you have, what kind of house you own or what job you have, nothing can fulfill you the way Jesus can. He is the only one who can fill that desire in you for something more. God created you in such a way that all your desires will be met in Him alone.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12-13)
Comparing yourself to others is a hard habit to break. Next time you find yourself getting trapped again by comparison, turn to God who gives you the strength to be the person He is calling you to be.
Our new class, The Generosity Experience will take you on a six-week journey of learning how to love where you are through acts of kindness and generosity, identifying and serving people who are broke and broken by the messiness of life.
Stewardship Pastor, Southeast Christian Church
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