Sandra Stanley wrote an insightful, provocative, and eye-opening book called the Comparison Trap. She explores how advertising and social media can pull us into an endless loop of comparing ourselves with the polished and artificial images we see on television, print ads, Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, FAKEBook…yes, FAKEBook. So we tune in or log on in the morning, and we see an ad for a brand new Lexus and think, “Wish I had one!” Then our friend’s vacation pictures pop up on Facebook, and in the back of our minds we are thinking, “What’s wrong with us? We can’t afford a vacation like that.”
Someone else boasts that their child won the spelling bee, got straight A’s, was named “Student of the Year” right after being selected for the first child to go into outer space, AND won an Oscar. And we think, “I can’t even get my kid to put the toilet seat down.”
Your friend posts pictures of her new Jenny Craig-body and the caption under her picture (in her new purple bikini, looking AMAZING) reads, “Just turned 55! Finally going the speed limit!!” And you think, “I HOPE YOU DIE IN A CAR CRASH!! IN YOUR BRAND NEW LEXUS!!” OK, you don’t really think that, but you sure feel bad about your own tootsie rolls when you look at her toned abs.
The comparison trap leads us to all kinds of anxiety. The conscious and unconscious practice of CONSTANTLY comparing ourselves to the images we see around us leads us to be more and more unhappy with our spouses, bodies, careers, income, cars, kids’ performance in school and sports, our houses…
I confess that I cannot look at one more Joanna Gaines post. I love everything she does. It is impossibly beautiful. But she makes me feel so inadequate! I look at my living room and go BLECCCCH. I can’t invite somebody over here, there is no FARMHOUSE CHIC anywhere in this place! I have had to kindly rebuke all things Magnolia in the name of Jesus.
Jesus reminds us that stealing joy is an active pursuit of the devil:
John 10:10 (New International Version)
10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
And make no mistake: it’s not just the Enemy who is stealing our joy, killing our calm, and destroying our happiness. IT’S US. Every time you open your device and do that two-finger-expand thing to enlarge a picture for a closer scrutiny, you are opening the trap wider for feelings of discontent, insecurity, and inadequacy to come flooding in. We are our own worst enemy.
But Jesus continues:
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.“
Having life to the full means pulling away from every source of unhappiness, including feeling bad about other people’s good fortune, success, appearance, and lifestyle. It means graciously accepting ourselves for who we are.
Stick to what you have. Learn to love who you are. Stop comparing your orange to the apples around you. Find contentment in your backyard and quit looking over the fence. Look at your own Jesus-life in the loving arms of the savior, and ask him to show you the fullness of life that only he gives.
When you see things the way he sees them, your peace will return…in abundance.