Saturday, September 13, 2014

Session 3: Comparisons

Comparison Assessment

The purpose of this assessment is to get you thinking about the rule of comparisons in your own life and relationships. Put a check before each item that describes you.

1.    __ I often measure myself against other people.

2.    __ I sometimes determine my own worth/validation with thoughts like, “I’m as good as… or at least it’s not as bad as… or I’m better than…”

3.    __ It seems like life goes better/is easier for many people around me.

4.    __ When a friend succeeds in an area that I excel in I often find myself envious or resentful.

5.    __ When I feel “on top of my game” everything feels right in the world.

6.    __ I often worry that I don’t measure up.

7.    __ I keep a mental ledger in some relationships so I can track what I’ve done for someone vs. what he/she has done for me.

8.    __ The reality that “life isn’t fair” frequently bothers me.

9.    __ If I don’t get my due, I find myself angry or anxious.

10.           __ I struggle with “the grass is always greener”



Session 3: Comparisons



Comparing ourselves to others starts as a perfectly healthy stage of development. As children and into our adulthood, watching and imitating is the way we learn how to do things like tie your shoe laces, kick a soccer ball, or make a new friend.

Ø Social learning theory: Psychologist Albert Bandura says we look to those around us to determine our own way of thinking, feeling, and acting. As children, we look to our families. As teens, we start to look to our peers. As adults what do we do? The same.
Ø I.e. Keeping up with the Joneses (Idiom referring to the comparison to one's neighbor as a benchmark for social class or the accumulation of material goods.)

 “Look neither right nor left.”
-Proverbs 4:27 

Comparisons tempt us to look to the left and to the right to see how we measure up to the people around you. “Are we acceptable? Are we are measuring up?” And it doesn’t STOP there – it tempts you to compare your children to other children and your spouse to other spouses! It’s frustrating! It’s exhausting! It’s a TRAP! Comparisons are not only JOY KILLERS, but are dangerous and can drag us down into places that we do not want to go.


The Land of ‘ER’:

This is where we all live. We all want a bigger ‘ER’ added to the adjectives that describe us. We all secretly desire to be…



We have this inner feeling of wanting more ‘ER’ than the next guy because it makes us feel better about ourselves.


Toxic Comparisons

1.    Spouse: Compare spouse to Father (pre-conceived notion of what a spouse should be like); compare spouse to someone on TV, magazines, or fictitious characters in romance books. Compare your husband to another husband.
§      Leads us to desire something different or something better. You start wanting your spouse to have more “ER (I want HIM to be Rich-ER, Smarter-ER, handsome-ER, holy-ER, etc.)
o   Lie:I just want my husband to reach their full potential.” We start saying things like, Honey… you need a little more ‘ER’ here, a little more ‘ER’ there, and maybe a little less ‘ER’ here.
o   The problem is that it’s really not about THEM… It’s about what people think about YOU.
           2. Children:
I.e. Milestones/potty training: You start comparing your kids to other kids from infancy.

As they get older, you look (to the left & right) and see where everybody else’s kids are at, where they’re going to school, the clubs they’re in, what instruments they play, what they’re reading, how they’re excelling in sports, and how academically advanced they are – skipped a grade. Then they go off to college and it’s, “My kid is going to an IV league college” and maybe your son/daughter is only going to a community college… or not even attending college.

I.e. Bumper sticker: Proud parents that compare their kids

passively, yet publicly: “My son is an honor roll student 
or my daughter___.” And you’re behind them thinking, “Well my son/daughter isn't that good or doesn't do that”.

You can’t genuinely love someone that you are pushing them to perform better, so you’ll feel better about you.

Using the same *lie* about reaching ones full potential and it’s really not about them… it’s about you comparing your ‘parenting skills’ to other people.

3. Relatives: (I.e. “Ry” One family may be more involved than another). Some of us don’t get along with relatives because we’re jealous of what they have or their accomplishments. You’ll never look how they look, drive what they drive, you’ll never have what they have, you’ll never be “that happy”. Maybe they are still in their first marriage, and you’ll never get a first marriage again (yours failed). You find yourself rejoicing in their small failures… and you know its evil, but you've formed this dangerous habit of toxic comparisons.  

**You can’t genuinely love someone 
that you secretly hope will fail**

4. Co-workers: compare our jobs, job performance, pay scale, position, benefits, etc.

5. Friends/peers: Are they more successful? Where do they live? How big is their house? What do they drive? Who did they marry? Where are they vacationing? What are they wearing? 

     Facebook can be a huge temptation in comparisons. We log on and see our friend’s posts and they’re posting pictures of their houses, cars, their vacations, degrees, and their 2.5 children, etc. And we start comparing what we have and where we are at. This can lead to both feelings of inferiority and/or superiority;
Both = discontentment.
 “Keep up with the Joneses” Comparisons lead us to…
·       Financial Debt – purchased things, driving in things, living in things, wearing things, eaten things, vacationed in places, doing things that you CAN’T afford. And the only reason you did it, is because you SAW what other people were doing. You can’t really be a sincere follower of Jesus Christ, and chase the wind at the same time.
Is this part of your financial issue??
·       The world is forever pointing out things that should be ours, creating in us a sense of entitlement. Then Satan points us to those who have attained the things we hope for, pushing us farther down the road of discontentment.
1.    Women: parenting skills, cooking/baking skills involvements/achievements, talents, ministry (i.e. we could be tempted to compare our spiritual gifts!) Appearance (ie. Hip size). When we start comparing appearances, we begin to envy someone else’s shape and size.  This envy can sometimes lead to eating disorders.
Christian women can be tempted to emulate the latest trends & fashions our culture showers upon us by looking to worldly people, TV, and magazines.

These comparisons can lead us to follow the customs of the world and dress in a way that’s not glorifying to God.
(Romans 12:2)
Ø Older Women vs. Younger Women: Getting older – not looking as “fresh” and it tempts them to dress hipper/trendier; obsessing over wrinkle treatments/products; extreme cases - plastic surgery
     When we compare ourselves with others, we are not walking by faith. Instead, we are trying to control things. These women are trying to “control the clock”. They want to be “Young-ER”. And yet, at the end of the day, they’re still not satisfied. It’s a constant chasing after the wind. They’re never going to recapture their youth.

PROBLEM OF THE ‘ER’S’


There are some people who have the “good ER’s” and they compare themselves to others who have the less desirable qualities (or the less desirable ER’s). They say things like, “Well, I don’t feel as bad about my ex because his girlfriend’s a little heavy-er than me” or in sports a parent might say, “Well, ____ is a little slow-er than my son”.



And that leads to the problem of feeling… 



And we know we shouldn’t feel that either! You look to the left and people are better, you look to the right and people aren’t as good. Bottom line is, there is no win in comparisons because both places are sinful!

There’s another group/sub-category of people. They aren’t happy with –er they want –EST! They say, “I want to be…”
“I want to be in a category all by myself so that when people compare themselves to me they are like… “Whoa, there is NO comparison”. Maybe there is a slice of you that believes the same lie, I’m just reaching my ‘full potential’… I’m just doing my best.
     
OR… 
Maybe you are neither of these categories. Maybe you look in the mirror and say, “Well… it’s not his fault that he’s richer than me… or it’s not her fault she’s prettier than me… or it’s not their fault that their kids are smarter than mine.” RATHER, you look in the mirror and you hate you. You just don’t like you.
You’ve gone beyond not liking other people, but when you look in the mirror you don’t like you because you will never be as _____ as them.

  You know you will never measure up. You may never be that happily married, you may never have that financial margin, you may  never look like that, drive that, live like that, you’re kids will probably never go to go to those kinds of schools.

Comparisons get us into trouble for at least two reasons:

1.    They can make us feel better than the person we are comparing ourselves to; leading to pride (i.e. The publican who thanked God that he wasn't a sinner). The enemy of our souls loves it when we struggle with pride. It was his downfall.
2.    They can make us feel worse than the person we are comparing ourselves to, leading to low self-esteem, which still keeps our focus on ourselves. Although it says in James that God is not a respecter of persons, we do not believe this if we believe God is withholding something from us that is rightfully ours.

Solomon said in Proverbs 14:30,
“…Envy rots the bones”.

    Solomon was the wisest man in the world. He had built one of 7 wonders of the world. He was the wealthiest person of his lifetime. Kings and Queens came and sat his feet asking for wisdom. He looks at the world and he addresses this issue of our tendency to compare ourselves with other people in Ecclesiastes 4:4, “And I saw that ALL toil and ALL achievement spring from one person’s envy or another.”

  He says, Yep I’ve been watching people (I’m a student of behavior) and I realize that for the most part, the thing that drives/motivate people is competition. They’re looking over their left/right shoulder and trying to see what everyone else is doing, where there shopping, what they’re wearing, how much their making, what their driving, where their living… and their toil is DRIVEN by what they see other people doing. He said that 3,000 years ago! This has been going on for a long time!!

BIBLICAL EXAMPLES:

Let’s look at the ROOTS/origin of comparison issues…

Comparisons lead to envy and envy has been around from the very beginningIf left unchecked, it can lead to many other kinds of evil (James 3:14-16).

Every evil practice!

Let’s go back to the Garden of Eden where Eve started to make some toxic comparisons.

1.    Eve: Genesis 3:6 says, “She saw that the fruit was good and pleasing and desirable.”  All the rest of the fruit she had been given was good and desirable, but Eve wasn’t looking at those things, she was looking at what she didn’t have.  She knew this fruit wasn’t hers, it belonged to God and she knew God said don’t eat that fruit, but because in her comparison it looked better than what she had, she and her husband both took it.  Toxic comparisons and envy was part of original sin which means that in some way we all struggle with it. Don’t lie to yourself.

2.    Cain and Abel:  Cain was a farmer and Abel raised livestock and one day they both made an offering to God.  God looked on Abel’s offering with favor. Cain looked at his brother and envied the blessing he received; and instead of being HAPPY for his brother and working on his own heart and life in order to bring an acceptable offering to God himself, he went out and murdered his brother.  For Adam and Eve, envy led to disobedience to God but with their children it led to murder.   Comparisons lead to envy, and envy leads to all kinds of evil… and we see it all through the Bible.

3.    Rachel: envied her sister Leah because Leah could have children and Rachel could not. Rachel wanted children like her sister, so she sent her servant to have a child with Jacob in her place, which only led to more children and more dysfunction until that family became the poster-family for toxic relationships.  Envy led to a broken family full of strife.  The brothers born to Leah and Rachel and their servants also struggled with envy because they compared their fathers love and favor for his favorite son Joseph with how they were being treated; and that comparison and resentment led them to sell their brother Joseph into slavery.  Again, we see comparisons and envy leading to all kinds of evil.

4.    King Saul: He envied the praise and adoration that the warrior David was receiving with his victories in battle.  Instead of being happy for David, his envy led Saul to be consumed with anger and jealously that not only cost him the throne, but it cost him his life.

5.    Pharisees: Jesus was condemned by the religious leaders of his day because they envied the crowds that followed him.  The religious leaders envied the praise that Jesus had among the people and they feared losing their own power so they took action to destroy him.  So we see that envy leads to disobedience to God, family dysfunction, sibling rivalry, the loss of life and even the death of Jesus – all because we start comparing ourselves to one another and become discontent with ourselves.

o   Envy can lead to toxic words because we not only resent what others have but we end up putting them down because they have what we want.  
o   Envy can lead to toxic fear when we see others get ahead in life and we wonder what will happen to us in the long run.
o Envy can lead to toxic relationships when we start comparing our marriages and children with others and when everyone else’s families look perfect we start asking ourselves what’s wrong with ours.  
o   Envy can lead to toxic beliefs about ourselves because we tell ourselves the reason we don’t have what others have is because we aren’t good enough.  
o   Envy also permeates much of today’s toxic culture because everywhere we turn we are told to compare ourselves to others and that if we want to be happy we have to have all the things that everyone else has.  
o   Envy, or our toxic comparisons of others, is at the root of much of what is poisoning us.

Comparison + Resentment = Envy.  When we compare what we have to what others have and resent that they have it instead of us – it’s envy.  

Envy is counting the other person’s blessings instead of our own.”

Socrates (The philosopher) said:

 “Envy is the daughter of pride,
The author of murder and revenge,
And the perpetual tormentor of virtue.
Envy is the filthy slime of the soul;
A venom, a poison, which consumes the flesh
And dries up the marrow of the bones.
Envy is an ulcer of the soul.”



In Solomon’s final observation of our comparisons, he says this about envy: This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Obviously you can’t catch wind and that’s the point.
There is NO finish line, NO satisfaction,
NO tranquility/contentment in comparisons.

Does this mean we shouldn’t do our best in life? Are we not supposed to try? Are we supposed to just fold our hands and sit back?

   Solomon says: “Fools fold their hands and ruin themselves” (Ecclesiastes 4:5). He’s not saying don’t be ambitious. He’s Solomon. Have you seen his temple? Have you seen his gardens? He had 600 wives and 3,000 concubines. He had more gold than fort Knox. He was a busy man! He’s not saying don’t reach your full potential, because if you do nothing…eventually you self-destruct. So he goes on to explain…

   “Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:6).  He’s saying it’s better to have one hand open than to have two fists clenched, hanging on to everything you can get. It is better to have one hand open WITH TRANQUILITY, and to learn to be CONTENT with whatever one hand can hold, then to have two fists clenched around everything you can get. Because if you live like that (fists clenched) there will never be peace/tranquility, yet a constant chasing after the wind. Because no matter how tightly you have clenched both fists around everything you can get – there is always something you CAN’T get… and you’re never at peace.

Questions:
1.    Are you exhausted from trying to keep with ____? Do you ever feel like, “I wish I just didn’t even know what they had?”

2.    Are you broke from trying to keep up with _____?

3.    Are you allowing what others have to keep you from enjoying what you have? (Because you have 1200 sq. ft. house and they have 3000 ft and now all of the sudden you don’t like your house or they’re car has heated bum seats and you want heated bum seats.) Stop chasing the wind!

4.    Do you enjoy your kids or are you driving them crazy because of what everybody else’s kids are accomplishing. Do you enjoy them or are you just pushing, pushing, and pushing. Do you know there are couples who would love to have had your child and they can’t? Are you going to drive them crazy just because of your thoughts of where they should be? 

5.    Who would you secretly enjoy seeing fail? Isn’t that the ugliest part of us? When it’s someone we say we care about, but there’s a little -itty bit of you that feels good about it?

6.    Are you chasing after the wind? You can’t genuinely love someone that you secretly hope will fail. You can’t genuinely love someone that you’re pushing to perform better, so that you’ll feel better about you. You can’t really be a sincere follower of Jesus Christ and chase the wind at the same time.

7.    How does that impact your relationships with others? Do you feel bitterness towards someone because they have something you want, but don’t have? Have you fallen into the temptation of comparing yourself to others (in any group or relationship) and then making the determination that you do not belong? Paul used the analogy of a human body to describe the people of God. Every person is a part of the body that was created by God and placed in the body: he wrote, “Now if the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body”. Every person is worthy in God’s eyes. Every person has something to offer. Every person is precious and UNIQUE in God’s sight.

So what do we do?

 1.    Take your cue about you from the One who made you, loves you, and who redeemed you. Give praise and be grateful for the way our Creator designed you (Psalm 139). He knew exactly what He was doing.



2.    Be “The You” Christ designed YOU to be and run your OWN race. When you be who God made you to be, you compete with no one.

Each of these flowers below are unique and beautiful in their own way. The purple one is not gazing to it's right wishing to be like 'pinky'. It's just busy blooming into what God designed it to be! We should take this important lesson from nature to heart and stop trying to be like or look like everyone else and... 

JUST BLOOM!!!

Stop looking to the left and to the right.

1.  Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” Rejoicing with those who rejoice means looking at the lives of others and not wanting what they have but celebrating with them what they have and how God has blessed them. When someone is promoted at work above us – we should celebrate with them and not be bitter that we were overlooked.  
  When people around us find success while we are experiencing failure we shouldn’t resent what is going in their lives but throw a party for them!  It’s not easy, but when we do this we cut envy off at the knees and open the door for God to bless us as well!  

2. We need to be thankful for what we have, look at  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. When we are thankful for what we have, it’s hard to be envious of what others have.  When our eyes are fixed on the blessings God has given us it’s hard to see how green the grass is on the other side of the fence. One of the ways to fight envy is to simply make a list of all we are thankful for.

What are you thankful for today?

Contentment IS attainable, but first we must kill the dragons of comparison. And they will die as long as we keep our eyes focused on the King of Kings, the only one worth looking at.


The stick I made for measuring 
I used most every day. 
It helped me to compare myself 
with others on my way. 
I watched all those behind me, 
or further down the road, 
and I would readjust my pace 
or lighten up my load. 
The only real drawback 
with how I ran my race 
was watching everything around,
except my Savior's face.



One of my favorite quotes to live by:


“Be who God meant for you to be 

and you will set the world on fire.” 
-Catherine of Sienna