Coveting, Comparison, and Other Crappy Things I Do
Dear Reader, thank you for tuning in for today's edition of the Sunday Series, Whole Hearted! Today I wanted to talk about something that I've struggled with my whole life: COMPARISON.
Yup. Comparison. And buckle up because it AIN'T pretty.
Reader, I'm admitting out loud today in this circle of trust that "my name is Caitlin and I'm a compariholic." I've struggled with envy and jealousy SO much in my life that I'm surprised my skin hasn't turned a permanent shade of green. LOL
It's not fun telling you all this, but I want you to know that if you struggle with jealousy, comparison, or envy you're NOT alone! I've been dealing with this sin my whole life. We're together in this fight. And if this topic doesn't really speak to you, I hope you still read because you never know when it will strike!
So let's dive in.
What's the Deal?
When I search out advice for this problem, I often hear the go-to response that "no one is perfect," and "everyone has tough parts of their life." Better yet, there are people who remind you that the person you're jealous of probably has a lot of problems in their life.
Yeah yeah, I know I know. But honestly, remembering that everyone has struggles STILL doesn't stop me from coveting Gigi Hadid's legs or Kylie Jenner's private plane.
I think this is the problem: there ARE people with perfect looking lives out there, and THIS is where it is easy to get tripped up.
In real life I've known girls who had the pleasure of being whisked off to Japan for New Years by their delightfully friendly AND wealthy parents. I've seen gorgeous hipster homes filled with plants, white kitchens, and stunning babies. I've seen waist-length hair and 3 acre mansions (I'm looking at you Rachel Parcell), and don't even get me STARTED on the women who get to have a cookbook just because they're famous (hey Chrissy Tiegen!)
So yes. There IS evidence out there that there are people with more than me: more money, more fame, more family, more modeling contracts, etc. But is all this evidence that these people are more successful? Are they happier?
Successful, maybe, but happy? Who even knows! All I know is that thinking about all the things that THEY have that I don't kind of makes me unhappy. And this is the problem.
Why Coveting and Comparison is a Huge Problem:
A few months ago, during our perfectionism blog, I told you all how I feared what other people thought of me, and consequently focused on being PERFECT.
Trying to be perfect actually made me zero in on the "imperfect" places of my life: those things that you just CAN'T change no matter what. You know what I’m talking about: your height, who your family is, your talents, your face etc.
Focusing on my imperfections and what I lacked compared to others always made me feel like I had somehow been slighted by life. That because Instagram Models exist and are often (seemingly) thriving in life, it automatically meant I was somehow worse off.
It's easy to look at these things and feel worse about ourselves and OUR lives. You can fall so deeply into this trap that it begins distorting your view of yourself and all the things you ARE blessed with in life. Or maybe this is just me.. I kind of doubt it though.
But you know what's worse than our view of ourselves being distorted? When we become envious and covet what others have, our view of OTHERS becomes distorted as well.
I realized that whenever I would apply envy to a relationship or my view of someone else, I would start to resent them, feel distrustful towards them, and in general, wish that they would stumble somehow in their perfect life.
Envy stopped me from seeing others with eyes of love. People I was envious of were no longer real people to me: rather, they became a dumping grounds for all of my personal frustrations with my own life. They weren’t potential friends or inspiration, they were a threat!
Yeah I know... kind of an ugly look isn't it?
Waiting for "perfect" people that I'm jealous of to suffer in life is seriously NOT Christlike. This is why the Bible explicitly warns against and condemns coveting and envy. Seriously, it's right there in the Ten Commandments: Number 10 in fact, "Thou Shall Not Covet."
If I took coveting as seriously as I take "Thou Shalt Not Murder," or "Thou Shalt Not Steal," we probably wouldn't even be having this conversation.
But alas, here we are.
So How Can we Deal With This problem?
So what? Are we hopeless in this?
Something that HAS helped me in this problem? The moment when I finally accepted and admitted that LIFE ISN'T FAIR. It isn't! We're not all born with the same levels of beauty, wealth, love, support, or health. Life isn't fair.
But truth time?
Just because someone else has more "stuff" or more blessings doesn't make your life WORSE.
There isn't a limited amount of happiness, thankfulness, or pleasure in the world. When someone has a large measure of wealth, health, and love, they aren't taking from a secret store of finite blessings. No, our God is a good God who gives each person how he sees fit.
Also, remember that with every blessing comes other things that you might not realize. With fame comes a lack of relaxation and privacy. With money comes a lot of superficial people who want to use you. With beauty comes the potential to fall into narcissism, arrogance, or to be used by others.
Everyone has their own set of blessings and their own set of problems. We can never truly know what someone's life ACTUALLY is.
All I can control in life is my reaction and responses to what happens to me.
There is this lie that somehow more STUFF = better LIFE. More beauty = better life. Happy family = happy life. And sure, a lot of these things DO help people live easier, less stressful lives, and somewhat happy lives. But you can also live a happy life WITHOUT all of these "blessings."
This is why you can find peaceful and content people in some of the poorest places in the world, and you can also find miserable people in some of the wealthiest places in the world.
The thing I've noticed? As soon as I've "acquired" something in life that I so "desperately" needed to be happy, I usually become acclimated to it with time. That skinnier body I so desperately wanted? I've all but forgotten about it. That more fashionable clothing? Just a part of my everyday life.
I think that's part of the problem. Humans can never be truly satisfied in wealth, beauty, or possessions. These things do not bring lasting happiness, and we will always become accustomed to them. Even if I lived the life of Rachel Parcell, I would eventually get used to it, and find myself desiring different things.
Comparison and coveting is just your heart searching for things that will make you happy.
In reality, nothing on this earth will ever make you happier than the love, grace, and acceptance of Christ Jesus.
My amazing friend Maisie, (find her @aisiemay on Instagram) told me this past summer that gratitude is the key to stop comparing ourselves to others. Gratitude is focusing on what you DO have and what you ARE blessed with, then actively being thankful for those things. It helps us to focus on the here and now, and to be thankful for everything we've been given.
Count your many blessings, count them one by one. This is true wisdom. Don't count that Instagram Influencer's blessings. Count your own.
I really want to bring home the point that coveting the lives of others stops us from achieving peace, contentment, and gratitude for all the blessings in OUR lives, but it also prevents us from encouraging, helping, and being enthusiastic when others succeed.
This trap of comparison and coveting always leaves me feeling resentful, insecure, and anxious. I constantly felt like I was "behind" in life: that I had to work out harder, grow my hair longer, and just be BETTER. All the little monsters of anxiety, depression, insecurities, and anger were just being fed like little demons.
But through Christ, I have been set free, and I work to be set free everyday.
Commit today with me, to turn your heart towards a posture of gratitude every time you feel frustrated, envious, or begin to covet what others have. Start small and write down what you are thankful for every day. Every time you feel the comparison monster crawling up, write down what you are thankful for!
It works. Honestly.