Today is our last day of obstacles on our way to an attitude of gratitude! Over the last four days we’ve covered negativity, bitterness, selfishness, and to round them off we’re going to tackle an attitude that I’m sure most (if not all of us) deal with on a regular basis- comparison.
In a world where comparing your life to someone else’s is as easy as turning on our cell phones, it’s sometimes hard to spot the negative impact that it has on our lives. In my experience, comparison is the obstacle that seems to give birth to all of the other obstacles we’ve discussed but what is it about comparison that makes it so damaging to our psyche? The thing about comparison is that it highlights the differences between ourselves and others, whether those comparisons are positive or negative. Say I run a mile in 12 minutes and I feel pretty good about myself because I don’t run but then I talk to someone else who just ran a mile in 8 minutes. My 12 minute mile suddenly seems less impressive and now I feel disappointed in it, not because the work I put in was any less but because it didn’t get me the same results.
Now flip it so the person I talked to ran a 16 minute mile, after this conversation I’m feeling pretty dang good about myself-maybe even a little cocky because my work got me “better” results then my friend’s. Either way, comparison has taken the focus off of my hard work and what I accomplished and made it about how my work compares to the people around me.
Comparison takes my focus off of the things I do have and focuses my attention on what others have.
In Genesis 16 we find the awkward love triangle that is Abraham, his wife Sarah, and Sarah’s handmaid Hagar. Abraham and Sarah had been through a lot in their long marriage, from name changes to famine to Pharaoh hitting on Sarah and moving her into his palace. Probably the most tumultuous thing to happen in their marriage was the unfulfilled promise from God that their children would be as numerous as the stars. After decades of frustration, Sarah decides to take matters into her own hands and offers her handmaid up to Abraham so that he can have a child with her. Sure enough Hagar gets pregnant and that’s when the comparison game really starts.
Genesis 16:4 says ‘He slept with Hagar, and she became pregnant. When she saw that she was pregnant, her mistress became contemptible to her. Then Sarai [Sarah] said to Abram [Abraham] “You are responsible for my suffering! I put my slave in your arms, and when she saw that she was pregnant I became contemptible to her.”‘
Comparison affects both Sarah and Hagar in this situation, neither for the better. Realizing that she has something her mistress desperately wants Hagar treats her with disdain and contempt. Sarah on the other hand blames her husband because she doesn’t have something that Hagar does, and eventually drives Hagar and her young son away into the wilderness. Instead of coming together as sisters and supporting and encouraging each other through what was surely a difficult time for both of them, comparison made them enemies and left neither woman happy with her situation.
How has comparison affected your relationships? Have you found yourself avoiding certain people because you don’t like how you feel about yourself when you are around them? Now that we’ve diagnosed some of the obstacles to a thankful spirit, we can start discussing the attitudes that will help us to cultivate and grow one. Did I leave out any obstacles that you’ve experienced in your life? Leave a comment below!