What would you say is one of the greatest contentment stealers?
Here are some clues to one:
Everyone does it. We naturally and developmentally begin to do this from the age of about five. It’s particularly prevalent during our adolescent identity-forming years. There is a healthy version of this thing and an unhealthy version. The unhealthy version can become a habitual way of thinking which can follow us right into adulthood. It can impede our spiritual growth if we are christians and our personal growth in general!
Any guesses what it is?
“they are the same age as us yet own a much nicer house”
“I work harder and put in way more effort than him”
“I’m a hopeless speaker compared to her!”
“my ministry is growing and theirs seems to be floundering”
“it’s not fair I have this condition when they eat the way they do!”
“I wish I had a body like that!”
and on it goes!
Yes, it’s comparison, the thing we often do without even realising we are doing it!
If comparison has the effect of making us feel inferior or superior to the other person then it is unhealthy!
It will steal our contentment and our focus!
We have an example in the gospels when Peter compared himself to John:
Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” John 21:20-22 NIV
From this little exchange, it seems it’s actually kind of foolish for us to try to follow Jesus while comparing ourselves to others! “What is it to you? You follow me,” says Jesus.
Often, the root of comparison is pride. Like Peter, we can have the thought that we deserve better. Things are unfair!
I recall a time when a dear friend in a difficult situation similar to mine, got a very clear, immediate, and direct (even miraculous) answer to her prayer. It was amazing! At the time I was genuinely very happy for her, but I confess I was also a tad envious. Lord, why did she get that and I didn’t?
Almost immediately I was reminded of when my children were younger and they’d each get a turn having a special treat with myself or my husband. When I treated one, did that mean I loved my other three children any less? Of course not! It just meant their turn for being blessed was coming next!
How much more so does our Heavenly Father bless each of His children in a way that only He knows they most need? Who are we to compare the way He chooses to bless one to the way He chooses to bless another? I was indeed convicted.
Maybe it’s a by-product of growing older and wiser, but these days I am more aware of not unhealthily comparing myself to others. Life is too short to spend even a moment being discontent when we actually have so much to be grateful for!
Whilst unhealthy comparison is not good for us, healthy comparison can be. We can aspire to be a better version of ourselves by comparing ourselves to ourselves.
We can look for ways we have personally grown compared to five years ago? One year ago? What area do I need to grow in at the moment? What are all the things I can be thankful for? How am I being blessed right now?
Let’s remember the scriptural wisdom of “godliness with contentment is great gain“, and not let unhealthy comparison steal from us! Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to show us our unique identity in Christ, and be thankful for every blessing!
So back to the original question what is the greatest contentment stealer? For me comparison is right up there, but I’d love to hear your thoughts!