“Strangled by Comparison’s Grasp”- Sarah Westfall

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I’ve never been a big makeup person. I generally put it on for church on Sunday and live off that glory for as long as possible. I’ve been known to still be wiping off the mascara smudges up to three days later. (If you’re now concerned about my hygiene, that’s legit—but a completely separate discussion.) The bottom line is that I just haven’t cared all that much, I don’t work outside the home, and my husband is content with my fresh-face existence.

I used to think my stay-comfortable style translated into confidence. I had settled into my 35-year-old bones and grown past the comparison trap I felt so keenly throughout my teens and twenties. I was wrong.

Comparison has a way of sneaking into your soul, circling around what you value, what you’ve let define you. I may not wear much makeup, but I’m no stranger to comparison’s black hole.

This year, I’ve been writing a book—a very slow process on a very rough draft about our family’s story of personal loss and God’s abundance. While I know it’s something God’s asked me to wrestle through, I’ve never felt such discouragement and discontentment as a writer.

Here’s how it usually plays out: After writing for hours in a coffee shop, I drive home feeling content, confident that I wrote unhindered and artfully. Grit and grace all wrapped into one. I did the story justice. But my brain needs a break, so I pick up my phone and hop on to social media. That’s when I see a post from an incredible Christian author I’ve admired for years. Her voice. Her authenticity. Her ability to be both insightful and pull you in. To make you laugh. The ways her words and her life have nudged my heart to work harder, love better. And holy crap, can she write! (She most definitely could have found a more eloquent word to use than crap.)

 

Comparison’s spindly fingers begin to cut off my circulation.

I feel weak.

I feel less.

I feel envy.

 

Then the voices start: “You’ll never write like that. Look, you’re not much younger. If you were going to write a book, you should done it by now. You can barely call your manuscript a first draft. And who would want to publish you? You’re no one. You don’t even have 500 followers on Instagram. Who is going to read your book?”

Initially dejected, I then shift into competitive drive—an admittedly uglier version of myself. Instead of leaning back, confident in what God has asked me to do and trusting in His purpose, I start scheming. Once, twice, I almost boost a social post or buy followers, because something in me now screams, “Look at me! Follow me! Listen to me! I am someone too!”

How quickly comparison robs us of joy and fogs up what we once saw so clearly. We no longer view God as one who gently leads us forward, but rather as one who has missed the mark. We’re left feeling hollow and insignificant. We’re bitter. We’re tempted to give up, or perhaps even worse, do whatever it takes (in our own power) to get there.

Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking we’re above comparison’s grasp. We all have things we value—our looks, our jobs, our homes, our health, our kid’s behavior, or our spouse—that comparison can turn into discontent.

When we feel that first flicker of envy, may we beg God to restore what comparison has left disgruntled and disjointed, to keep it from seeping into our marrow. And instead to become a people confident not only in our own uniqueness and gifts, but also in those of others. May we stop finding flaws and start celebrating what God’s doing in and through our brothers and sisters, His people.

Let us not allow what God intends for good to turn sour. Don’t let comparison steal our contentment.

 

“Be content with what you have, because God has said,

‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”

(Hebrews 13:5)

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