May 19

Comparing

May 19, 2017

Personal Growth

Priscilla wrote me to say, “Comparison is the one thing that really kills me. As soon as I entertain even one comparative thought—somebody else has more, looks better, can do something with more skill, gets more attention, and on and on—I immediately descend into feeling as if I am a uniquely unlovable, untalented blob of worthlessness. And it happens quicker than the blink of an eye. How can I stop this?”

“This is a VERY common problem,” I said. “Is there a solution? Yes, of course. You can make a one-time, final, irrevocable decision to believe that you have enough to be happy. You have enough love, enough God, enough attention, enough talent, enough native goodness, enough everything to be HAPPY. The enormous lie that fills the world is that we must be gathering more of everything in order to be more worthwhile and happier.

“It’s all a lie. If you’re starving, and you eat a plate full of nutritious food, you have enough for now, don’t you? You don’t continue to stuff yourself past the point of comfort, hoping that if you have more you’ll prevent future starvation. If you did that, in fact, you’d hurt yourself. You’re best served if you simply enjoy the satisfaction of enough. And so it is with your life.

“You have enough. Full stop. If you believe that, then it doesn't MATTER what other people have. I can find people everywhere who do things better than me, or who have more than I do, and I'm VERY happy for them. Smart people, for example. Rather than envy them, I rejoice that they make scientific advances possible in medicine, communication, genetics, metallurgy, and much more. Without them, we wouldn’t have cell phones, computers, the Internet, air conditioning, and so on. How grateful I am.

“If other people are more loving than I am, as another example, then they make the world a lighter, happier place—for themselves and for others, including me. I'm THRILLED that other people have more or can do more.

“Another solution to the dangers of comparing is to realize that nobody is me. Nobody has my genes, epigenome, life experience, and on and on. I can do only what I can do, not what others can do. Comparing myself to people I cannot be simply makes no sense.

“I can cut down trees with a chain saw in each hand. But I can't run or jump, not with my artificial knees. So let's suppose that I compare myself to somebody who can't run a chain saw. Would I be happier knowing that I'm superior in that area? No, silly, even stupid. Or let’s suppose that I compare myself to people who can run all day. Does that change who I really am, or does it genuinely diminish the joy in my life? It would be absurd to let that happen.”

Priscilla continued with personal examples of comparing:

1. “This morning my husband and I had a conversation about some of the cardinal failings of people, the things that really drag them down. He wrote down his list of the top ten, and when I read them I got to ‘laziness' and 'irresponsibility.' I chose to believe that he was ‘subtly’ trying to tell me that I was lazy and irresponsible. I started to compare myself to him in those areas, and in a nanosecond I was down the worthless rabbit hole.”

“Silly,” I said. “If there are areas where you're lazy, you just work on them. Comparison is meaningless. If I'm taking a cross-country trip, I just want to get from one place to the other. Comparing myself to people who have gotten there faster or slower doesn't get me there any better. Comparing isn’t a step forward to anything.”

2. “Yesterday evening I went to a meeting of a women’s organization at church. I sat next to a woman who is so well educated and articulate, and by comparison I felt stupid. Within minutes I wanted to escape and go home.”

“She has HER mind,” I said, “along with her DNA, her education, and her experience, which have led to her being HER. How lovely. Or possibly how unhappy she is, despite all those externally great qualities—we really don’t know. And how lovely that you are you, and that together both of you can make the world happier. But comparing the two of you? For what purpose? What is there to gain?

We can make the world a better place by making better decisions, by telling the truth, and by loving people. We gain nothing whatever by comparing ourselves to anybody.

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