I stood in the corner, watching the women around me laugh like old friends, and hoping that I wouldn’t make a fool of myself. Not all women’s ministry gatherings were this hard, but I was a new seminary student and these women were student wives. Soon-to-be pastor’s wives. They seemed godly, poised, and were preparing for important ministry roles. I was awkward, nervous, and still figuring things out. The women that day were welcoming, but no matter how friendly they were, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t belong.
It was an awful feeling, but it wasn’t a matter of kindness, it was a matter of comparison.
You see, when I walked into that room, I compared myself to all the other women and determined that I was lacking. I wasn’t outgoing, pretty, or holy enough to be a part of that group. I decided they couldn’t possibly like me, and it hurt.
Comparison does that. It’s messy and painful and leaves a wake of destruction in its path. Unfortunately, it’s also extremely common.
The Crush of Comparison
When we compare ourselves to the people around us, we’re evaluating and ranking them to decide where we, and they, stand in relation to everyone else. We compare our marriages, parenting, or our careers. Anything we do becomes fair game when we compare ourselves and, in the process, someone always gets hurt. Sometimes we hurt others because comparison causes us to judge them harshly. Other times, however, we get hurt because we decide we’re not enough. Every time, community is destroyed.
There are lots of different reasons we compare ourselves, but for many of us, the cause is rooted in our purpose. When we don’t understand who God created us to be, we fall back on ideas that we have created ourselves. We watch other people around us, take in messages from books and talks, even observe the women in the Bible, and create our own picture of what a godly woman looks like. We start to focus on what we think we’re supposed to do, ways we’re supposed to contribute, rather than focusing on who God is. We invent standards and then hold ourselves and others up to that; we compare, and the result is wounded hearts, broken relationships, and destroyed community…