Prayer for the Comparer
[Editor’s Note: This is the latest installment in a series of devotionals by Kelly O’Dell Stanley. Check out Prayer for the Unfocused, Prayer for the Weary Parent and Prayer for the Overwhelmed by following the links!]
I confess my tendency to look at what someone else has with judgment, envy, longing. I fight feelings of jealousy when I see people who seem to have it all together—happy marriages, successful children, thriving careers, financial abundance.
Wherever I look, I find myself feeling like I cannot measure up. I’m just not good enough. But instead of getting down on myself, I turn my disappointment towards others. I find myself feeling instant dislike toward someone who is prettier, skinnier, younger, smarter, wealthier, or happier than I am.
On the other hand, occasionally I find myself looking at another person or situation and thinking I definitely come out on top in that comparison. When their lives are falling apart, when I judge them for their mishandling of a situation, when I rejoice in knowing that I may have my flaws, but I’m not that bad…
It’s hard to acknowledge the ugliness that resides in me, but it’s there. It’s painful to admit it, to see it in black and white. And those feeling prove, again, that I’m just not very good.
Until I acknowledge it, though, I cannot change it. So I’m doing this right now, because I’m ready to move on from this place of comparison, this constant measurement, these lenses of envy and feelings of inadequacy that color the way I see the world.
Because the truth is I want for nothing. I could fill pages and pages with all of the blessings in my life. All the things I have that are good. But even then, that’s not what this is about. I could easily find myself feeling proud about how many blessings I’ve been given.
The simple reality is that comparison leads to dissatisfaction. Every single time.
When I look at someone else, when I want to be different or live differently or accomplish bigger things, I’m ignoring an important fact. I am already who You made me to be.
Sure, I could be better. (Clearly I could be nicer and less judgmental and more content.) I know You are constantly working on me, trying to make me love more genuinely and live more authentically and worship more deeply. Helping me become the most-fully-me version of me I can be. Forming me into someone who reflects Your goodness, Your generosity, Your kindness, Your grace.
When I come to understand that someone’s differences aren’t better or worse—when I see that we’re on different paths, but that they’re not side-by-side, competing for the lead, but going in totally different directions—that’s when I can stop comparing. It’s not a race or a contest.
You have given me what You have given me. In Your supreme goodness, I have to trust that You know what I need. You know where I can be most effective. You know who I can reach, and how I can get there. And You know what I can become. I’m free to be all I can be within those parameters. To operate fully and completely in the areas You’ve called me to live. To know You, to seek You, to walk beside You.
It’s no use looking elsewhere because the best thing I could want for myself is that thing that You have planned for just me. Uniquely, individually, personally mine. Using the abilities and personality quirks You planted within me.
So, sure, I can look at others and wish I had what they have. I might evaluate myself to better gauge my skills and where I fit in the scheme of things. But to truly compare? To weigh whether what You have for me is enough? I’m embarrassed to have even asked. To wonder if I’m good enough, when I know that I am a child of the one true King? They say comparison is the thief of joy. And I choose not to let anyone—least of all, myself—steal the joy you have planned for me.
Because the only comparison that matters is this: no one, no thing, no being in this universe can begin to compare to You.
Kelly O’Dell Stanley: Full of doubt and full of faith, Kelly is the author of Praying Upside Down and Designed to Pray(August 2016). She lives in small-town Indiana, where she operates her own graphic design business, reads too much and cleans too little, and thrives on coffee and deep discussions with friends. Download free monthly prayer prompt calendars at prayingupsidedown.com.