When Comparison Is a Good Thing

Comparison can be dangerous.

When you compare your messy house that has scuffed baseboards, stained carpet and paint-chipped walls with the idyllic, flawless home pictures on Pinterest, it’s easy to feel dissatisfied. When you compare your screaming, wild children with the perfectly posed model-looking pictures of kids your friends post on social media, it’s easy to feel resentful. When you compare your struggling bank account balance with your friend’s beautiful new car, it’s easy to get jealous.

Comparing ourselves with others who have more than we do can take us down a road of envy, bitterness and discontentment. There’s no doubt about it.

The famous saying really is true: Comparison is the thief of joy.

But the other side of the coin—when you compare yourself to those that have less than you do—can be dangerous as well. That form of comparison can easily lead to pride, arrogance and a sense of superiority.

Neither of those attitudes—envy and ego—are what God created us for, calls us to, or commands us to do.

But there’s a third option we often overlook: the posture of perspective.

While comparing yourself to someone that has less than you can lead to pride, I believe with the right heart, it can give you a perspective that actually creates gratitude and contentment.

And that is when comparison is actually a good thing.

When you’re sitting in traffic and irritated that you’re running late, remind yourself that you have a car—a luxury many people don’t have. You can reposition your heart to a place of gratitude and contentment.

When you’re frustrated with your kids for acting out and leaving toys everywhere, remind yourself that there are people who would give anything to have children. You can refresh your spirit and look at the situation with new eyes.

When you’re overwhelmed and stressed at work, remind yourself that you have a job to provide for your family, which is something many people don’t have. You can change your outlook to one of thankfulness.

Our problems are real and our feelings are valid. But if we want to get through our problems with less stress and more happiness, comparison can actually help us. If used in the right way, comparison can take the focus off of what we don’t have and shine a light on everything we do have. It can provide perspective that gives way to gratitude, contentment and peace—all of which are attributes that God created us for, calls us to, and commands us to do.

It’s that perspective that makes what we have more than enough.

So the next time you’re stressed about your situation or frustrated with your family, remember those less fortunate than you. With the right heart, comparison can be the very thing that actually leads to joy.