Wearing a stylish workout ensemble, she drops off her four well-behaved children at preschool. She smiles, says hello and hops back in her SUV hoping to get in a run before going to work and leading her Bible study that evening.
As I park the car, I slap on my hat, tucking my naturally frizzy hair underneath, hoping no one notices I’m not wearing any makeup. It’s about that time that my daughter spirals into a panic saying she can’t possibly go to school today because her socks “feel funny.” After dealing with the sock dilemma and getting Morgan to class, I drive off thinking about that mom and why I can’t seem to get my act together.
This is not a new struggle for me. Whether it’s the mom at my daughter’s preschool last week or the cover of Seventeen magazine when I was a teenager, the problem is still the same. Comparison can be a struggle at any age, but I have become increasingly aware of its ability to steal my joy as a mom.
Why Comparison is a Trap
In Galatians 6:4, Paul writes to the Galatians, “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.” The pride Paul mentions here is in reference to one’s confidence in their standing before God. Comparison is a subtle but effective tool that satan uses to redirect God’s people from their necessary focus. Here are the three major pitfalls of the comparison trap:
- Inferiority– On one hand, it can lead to feeling inferior to the object of our comparison, which leads to a lack of confidence in our identity in Christ.
- Superiority – On the flip side, comparison can make us feel superior and lead to pride. Sadly, my feelings of inferiority towards “super mom” in the parking lot, ultimately turn into disparaging thoughts about her to make myself feel better.
- Self-Reflection – When we become TOO introspective about our need to compare, we can fall into an equally perilous trap. Often times, I found myself struggling with comparison over and over again only to realize I was focusing on myself instead of God. This is a form of conforming to human standards(my own, in this case) instead of God’s standards.
The Cure for Comparison
As you have heard, comparison is the thief of all joy. It is impossible to be content and jealous simultaneously, as jealousy is so consuming. That’s why climbing out of the contentment trap is incredibly freeing!
As mentioned in my post The Ministry of Motherhood, God used the Parable of the Talents to show how God rewards the use of his gifts. Our focus shouldn’t be on comparing gifts and talents with others, but on how we are putting those gifts to use. God rewards those who are faithful with the gifts they are given. It’s not about what you have but what you do with what you have. When our minds are clouded of thoughts of comparison, we are distracted from using our gifts. Ironically, this deprives the world of the blessings of our own unique God-given gifts.
“Super moms” only exist in the realm of social media and our own “snapshot” perceptions of others. Our struggle with comparison is deflated when we come to the realization that we aren’t making comparisons to reality. Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are great, but they give an illusion of effortless perfection. From the magazine on your coffee table to your friends’ Instagram photos, it can be difficult to delineate what is real and what is contrived. This is where our perspective plays a role, not of others or ourselves, but of God.
What we need is not repeated self-assurance, but to look to Him, affirming that His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). It is not enough to merely look at ourselves in self-reflection. Jen Wilkin says it best in a recent post: “Our primary problem as Christian women is not that we lack self worth. We lack awe.” When we focus on God, our struggle with comparison dissipates. We come to realize that everything and everyone pales in comparison to the surpassing greatness of our God.
The good news is that there is hope for us moms. By spending regular time with Him and remembering our role in His plan, we afford our children the directional marker of the unfathomable riches of His grace. By focusing on Him, we can extend His very own love and grace to them. The greatest catalyst to your child’s spiritual growth is your own.
Isaiah 30:21 states, “Whether you look to the left or the right there will be a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’” This verse always reminds me of a horse with blinders. When we stare in any direction long enough, we will ultimately follow that path. We have to keep our eyes on Him in order to follow Him well. That means spending time in the Bible getting to know Him better and the providence of His plans.
Any time we compare ourselves to one another, it is a distraction from our true directional focus. The habit of comparison flies in the face of our identity and role as conduits of God’s love and grace to a lost and dying world. It compromises our ability to rely on His power and allow His power to bless others through us.
I would love to hear any feedback and insights. Thank you for reading!