I have always wondered why some of us seem to need to feel better than others. Do we really need to feel better than others in order to be happy with ourselves? Do we really need to feel superior to others, more important or intelligent, more beautiful, or gifted, and even holier and more spiritual, than others in order to be at peace with ourselves? How many times in a day do you catch yourself comparing yourself with others at various levels: the kind of body they have, the car they drive, the spouse they have, the kind of face they have, the career they are in, the children they have, their lifestyle, etc.! Strange, isn’t it? But if you really get down to it, you will realize that comparison is such a deadly trap that silently sucks away the fresh air of peace and joy in your heart. For, no matter how you compare yourself to another person, you will find yourself either terribly falling short, and so end up in self-condemnation; or you find yourself arrogantly placing yourself above every other person, and then before you know it, you will be putting those “lesser” people down.
Comparison is the soil on which jealousy and envy grow and fester until they destroy both the envious person and the person toward whom envy is directed. The envious person has compared him or herself with another and has come to the insidious conclusion: that he or she is less, has less, and is actually a nobody, a loser, ugly, dumb – God’s peculiar mistake! All attention is focused on the other who is and who has more – according to the comparison. The more the envious pays attention to the other, the angrier they are with themselves, their parents, their body, their intelligence, their career – everything. This anger with oneself grows and festers until love, kindness, peace, and joy are extinguished from the heart. What is left could be just bitterness, guilt, resentment – smoldering self-rejection. Or, the anger may turn into destructiveness. This destructiveness has various faces: backbiting, attack of gossip, destructive wishes; and in extreme cases it leads to humiliation of others or outright crime. But it all starts with comparison. Jesus had a fair share of it; the first reading this weekend (Wisdom 2.12,17-20) clearly spells out how the comparing mind works and hatches destructive plans.
Comparison is judgment passed on God’s creative act. Everything and everybody that God creates is good and lovely. Each of us is filled with the goodness of God. But each person is given enough with which to be happy, serve God and His children. Comparison could be so deadly because it may make you overlook or downplay what God has given to you. Sometimes what you hear around you may make you pursue what society suggests will bring you to the “spotlight” or give you an edge over others. But do you need the spotlight? Do you need that edge over others to be somebody?
The disciples argue about who is the greatest; that is, who is more important, who is more recognized (comparing themselves) (Mk. 9.34). Jesus tells them that the greatest is one who is the servant. The greatest are those who know and accept themselves as God has made them, and who recognize with gratitude the gift that God has given to them. From this humble self-acceptance, they can serve God and His children. “All I can give back to God” rightly says Richard Rohr, “is what God has given to me – nothing more and no less.” Comparison makes you forget your gift; your eyes look outside to others, but never back to your own heart, where the treasures God has bestowed upon you reside. As you look outside to other people, the treasures within you continue to waste. And what a waste it will be over time!
Take time this week to look at the areas of your life you compare with others and feel the result. God bless you