The Thief of Joy

Comparison is The Thief of Joy

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States of America, was a wise man. I would like to say his many accomplishments and contributions to society are the reasons he has come to my mind when writing this article, but alas, it’s because of something else: words he shared with the world that probably impacted many of the decisions he made in his lifetime. “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

The definition of comparing is “to estimate, measure, or note similarity or dissimilarity between things.” Whew those are some heavy words.

It’s in our nature to compare. It’s hard not to “note the similarities and differences” between people.

Houses.

Kids.

Vehicles.

Paychecks.

Do you feel like comparison is stealing your joy? You’re not alone. Continue reading to learn ways to assess your own habits of measuring yourself and your situations to those of others, and how to stop letting The Thief of Joy rule the roost.

The Comparison Trap

We have all fallen into the comparison trap at some point in our lives. It starts very early on.

Imagine you are sitting with your toddler who is happily eating his banana slices until he catches your ice cream sundae sitting next to the high chair. As simple as that, he decides he’s no longer content with the fruit he was just enjoying, and he now needs your ice cream in order to be happy. He pushes his banana pieces on the floor and reaches for your sweet treat. 

We can laugh at the simplicity of such an illustration, but it really is that easy to fall into the comparison trap. Look how easily The Thief of Joy swooped in!

Several years ago, my husband and I went to a ministry conference and heard Doug Fields speak in a workshop. One thing he often tells people he comes in contact with is, “When you compare, you lose.” It makes so much sense. It has stuck with us so much that our kids probably recite it in their sleep. 

Let’s break that down a little bit. How can you lose by simply thinking a thought in your own mind that nobody else on this earth will ever hear?

Picture yourself taking a walk on a nice summer night.

It was a warm day, but the temp has decreased, and it’s time to get an after-dinner walk in. The breeze is perfect—keeping you comfortable and the mosquitos at bay. You stroll down the street and you pass somebody’s house with their perfectly trimmed yard, a front porch straight out of The Magnolia Journal, kids playing a nice game outside (off their screens, of course), a fluffy, white Doodle dog watching them play, the 3rd garage door is open to a beautiful boat, the mom and dad are sitting in the rocking chairs holding hands, (their cell phones are in the house on the counter). 

How many times did you compare yourself to my fake scenario? I did it and I made it up!

Maybe you made comparisons based on your two minutes of observation.

 “I bet they have such a great marriage because they are holding hands.” 

 “I wish my kids got along like that.”

 “I would give anything to hold my child and hear him/her laugh like that again.” 

“I bet they work too much if they have that huge boat.”

“I wish I could have a dog but my allergies control my life.”

“I would love to mow that yard. That’s the only time I can get any peace and quiet.” 

So many comparisons. It happens so quickly and so naturally. Unless you don’t let it.

In preparing for this article, I spent weeks making notes, observing myself, and asking myself questions. Hard questions that made me think, challenged me. I want to share them with you.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Combating The Thief of Joy

Grab a pen and paper and join me!

  1. Why do I compare myself with what I see on Facebook, Instagram, or if I can be brutally honest, other Christian friends?

  2. Do I ever feel good about myself after pointing out the similarities and differences between my life and somebody else’s? What does that say about me?

  3. How would my friends feel if they knew I just compared my kids, my husband, my house, my job, my relationship with my parents, my checking account balance with theirs? Or at least what I “thought” I knew about them and their situations.

Bottom Line: Theodore Roosevelt was right. Comparison is the thief of joy. But why? I have come up with a few reasons I try not to fall into the comparison trap.

Read Also: The Emotional Woman & Freedom from Fear – find confidence in the way God made you uniquely you.

3 Reasons to Avoid The Thief of Joy

  1. When you compare yourself to somebody else, it makes you forget what you have to be thankful for.

    Ever been there, Friend?

    Years ago, we were driving around a car I bought in college. It ran great. It was paid off. It just had a little bit of “personality.” Jake and I knew a different car was in the future but we were content to keep saving and drive the vehicle we had.

    One day after running errands, our oldest said, “Mom, why don’t we just get rid of this car and drive it right to the dump?” In his young mind, it was broken. There was something better. We needed better.

    I went on to explain how nice it was to not have a car payment. The car ran just fine and we should be thankful to even have a vehicle.

  2. There is no exact formula to figure out a fair comparison.

    You can’t look at your today and deem it ok to compare to somebody else’s today. It can’t be calculated. Your world and somebody else’s worlds are night and day difference. We are all uniquely made and no two people or families are alike.

    What brings you joy might not bring joy to others. Can I get an Amen?

    Some people prefer working outside the home and some people prefer working at home. What brings me joy is being outside all day with my family and chickens. What brings my kids joy is playing video games. As I write this article, our boys have been on their screens for way too long. They finished remote learning for the day, had some Fun Friday ice cream and I got carried away with writing. Yes!  Best day ever!

    The variables are always going to be different for each person so the equation used to calculate your joy based on comparing your life to someone else’s is always going to be unsolvable. X does not equal Y.

  3. It puts a wall up between those you are comparing with.

    This has been a struggle for me. We had some really tough years a while back. I know if you’ve read this far, you’ve probably had your fair share, too.

    Our son struggled with emotional regulation and sensory integration. The world as we knew it quickly transformed into home therapies and evaluations. Talk about struggling with comparison. So many questions and intentional comparisons with peers his age during his evals. It was hard not to note the similarities and differences between our family and what I thought I knew of others.

    Going anywhere was a challenge. Our son would hit his head on the floor very hard. Every single day. For a couple of years.

    I struggled.

    I wanted him to be safe. Who in their right mind wouldn’t? While praying and hoping our son would grow to be safe I saw “all” those around me who weren’t revolving playdates around therapy sessions. People who could take a trip to the store and not fear for the safety of their child in the cart or in the carseat. The stares of curious strangers.

    The difference in our lives was apparent. I struggled daily with the comparison trap. It wasn’t fair.

    Sometimes it hurt to be around people because our lives were so different. Comparison stole my joy more times than I wanted and built walls between me and others.

Alright, so now what? I know I compare. I know it hinders my ability to be thankful for what I have. I know I can’t figure out an exact equation to get the comparison correct. I also know that it puts up walls between me and others. What do I do next?

In order to get through this over a span of a few years, I had to go through some stages and learn some things along the way. In no exact order because my time of growth is still going on. It’s not linear.

Some days are up and some are down. These things are what have helped me to keep moving on during the hard days.

Also Read: Soul Care– Self care tips for the Christian woman.

How to Defend Against The Thief of Joy

  1. Find a couple of people who are in similar experiences as you.

    For me, it was friends who understood our situation. They understood how family gatherings took days to mentally prepare for and just as long to recover from. They understood how frustrating it was and how sad we were. It meant the world to have someone who understood the sadness and frustration.

    Present day, I have learned that my feelings were valid. And yours are, too! It’s ok to feel those hard feelings. It’s even better when you have a great friend who can relate and can help pick you back up.

  2. Look for those close couple of friends you can reach out to even though their day looks much different than yours.

    Their struggles may not be the same but they STILL have them. Every single person does. Find your people who YOU can support in their hard times and you don’t feel annoying sharing your frustrations for the hundredth time that week. Tell each other tomorrow is a new day and you get to have a new minute, hour, and day.

    We talk a lot at our home about being a “there you are” person rather than a “here I am person.” It helps me and hopefully our kids learn the back and forth of relationships. How important it is to be there for others and also go to them when needed.

    Being there for people rather than comparing the differences and similarities between our lives and theirs cultivates real relationships. The best kind.

  3. Remember that these hard times aren’t forever, even if they feel like they are.

    I still remember the day I looked an Occupational Therapist in the eyes and asked her, “Is he ever going to stop hitting his head?” It didn’t feel like he would. She looked at me straight in the face and assured me that he would. I needed the reminder that the hard times aren’t forever.

    It’s easy to forget that when you are in your day-to-day life.

    We went out this afternoon. We haven’t been to too many places the past few months because of the pandemic. It was a big outing. I expected the boys to make better choices. They didn’t.

    They fell apart. I fell apart. I had to remind myself that moment was going to pass and didn’t let myself compare my family to other families in the store.

  4. Give yourself and your family ALL the grace.

    Sometimes I wake up in the morning, have some quiet time, and ask God to help me dish out mounds and mounds of grace. I say “Amen” and the kids are up fighting. Over stuff I feel no one should ever fight about.

    I get irritated. Keeping my nice voice, I try to move this along by distracting them. They don’t stop. My voice gets a little edgier.

    Still fighting over a blanket. The last of the chocolate milk.

    I find my voice getting louder and cracking but they still can’t hear me until I raise it nice and loud and by the time I spew out my frustrations, they are all quietly staring at me like I have 25 heads.

    Give them grace as we parent. Give yourself grace as you parent. 

Being there for people rather than comparing the differences and similarities between our lives and theirs cultivates real relationships. The best kind.

Next Steps

I am not sure where you are right now.

Maybe you do a great job not noticing the similarities and differences between your life and others’. Maybe you are super thankful for what you have and you don’t let comparison be the thief of joy in your life. If that’s you, please leave a comment and I would love to celebrate with you!

Or, if you are like me, you need to ask yourself those 3 questions previously mentioned and you need to tell yourself some hard truths. Being real with myself has only made me grow. 

I can’t conclude my thoughts without sharing what a dear friend told me when I was struggling. She reminded me that only Jesus can give me the peace that passes all understanding. By crying out to Him and thanking him for all of my blessings, I will have peace. Not the “this day has to go just as I hoped in order for me to have peace” kind of peace. The real peace. From the Prince of Peace who helps you to see yourself as the precious child He made you to be. 

“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”

Psalm 9:1

Friend, join me in letting go of the thief of joy and grab on to God’s peace!

Related Posts

21 Shares

Leave a Comment