How Do I Overcome Comparison?

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But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. —James 3:14–16

Once after my friend Angela visited, my husband asked why I was so grumpy. “You usually love having Angela come,” he said. But I replied, “Yeah . . . I don’t think I like Angela anymore.”

My husband was puzzled. “Shannon, you love Angela! What’s going on?”

Eventually I realized it wasn’t Angela that I didn’t like. It was being shown up as a mom.

Angela’s girls had sweetly played in the sunshine, enjoying the pool and crafts and playing pretend. My boys had argued constantly, interrupting each other and trying to outdo each other’s stories.

I felt like a “less than” mom—and that’s a really awful feeling. As a mom, a wife, a housekeeper, a neighbor, an employee, a ministry worker, a friend . . . do you ever feel “less than”?

The Wisdom James Taught

I’d like to point you to some verses in the book of James which have helped me with my comparison struggles. 

James calls for a kind of wisdom which is stripped of the world’s measure-up way of thinking. Listen as he connects measure-up comparison (in bold) with the “wisdom” of our enemy (underlined):

If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. (James 3:14–16, emphasis mine)

Using my situation with Angela, let’s consider three measure-up messages from below alongside the wisdom from above.

Three Measure-Up Messages from Below

1. You should pull away.

Because God calls us to unity, the enemy works to convince us to pull away from other Christians. But Jesus desires that we as the Church draw together, always building one another up (Eph. 4:12).

Angela is a dear friend, and I’m a better mom because of her influence. We are better together and weaker apart.

2. Her strengths aren’t so great.

Any desire to minimize my friend’s successes or strengths is drenched in envy and bitterness. In contrast, look at the me-free theme through James’s description of heaven’s wisdom: “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). 

Heaven’s me-free way of living allows me to appreciate my friend. Rather than feeling threatened, I’m able to learn from her and grow into a better parent myself.

3. My weaknesses aren’t so bad.

Notice this part of James’s warning: “If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth” (James 3:14). 

I’m tempted to boast about my successes and sweep my failures under the rug. Wisdom from above leads me in a completely different direction. God is pleased when I make myself small in repentance and humility. 

Angela’s visit exposed some parenting holes. I needed to first make myself small and say, “Okay, Lord. What are you showing me? How can I grow?”

Reflect and Respond:

  • Who have you been measuring yourself against? Which of these measure-up messages have you been entertaining? 
  • Consider these me-free truths today: I need faith-building friends, I can celebrate others’ strengths without being threatened, and my weakness is an opportunity to humble myself and grow. 

Digging Deeper

Learn more on the topic of comparison in Shannon’s book, Comparison Girl: Lessons from Jesus on Me-Free Living in a Measure-Up World.

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About the Author

Shannon Popkin

Shannon Popkin

Shannon is a writer and speaker, who loves to blend her gifts for storytelling and humor with her passion for God’s Word. She is the author of Comparison Girl, Control Girl, and Influence. Shannon is from west Michigan and is happy to be sharing life with Ken, who makes her laugh every single day. Together, they have the joy of parenting two college students, a high schooler, plus two adorable shih tzus.

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