Comparison

Do you tend to compare yourself with other women? I know I do… sometimes unconsciously. Over sixty years ago, social psychologists developed a theory called Social Comparison theory, which states that humans have the drive to compare themselves to others to determine their worth. This is especially true for women, who are likely to compare themselves with other women in certain areas such as abilities, appearance, success etc. With an easy access to a wide range of social media, women are comparing themselves with others more than ever before. The result, unfortunately, is lowered self-esteem, discontentment, or envy.

Growing up, I was motived by this drive of finding value by comparing myself with my classmates primarily in the academic area. I ended up going to one of the best universities in China. Was my life happy by being one of the elites? No, I was miserable, because there were so many students who were much better than I in the school. After becoming a Christian, I gradually learned to find my true identify in Jesus alone over the years. But still, I often find myself comparing with others. Why? The conversation between Peter and Jesus (John 21:19-22) sheds some light on this inborn tendency of human comparison. (You may want to review the full chapter for context clarity. The disciple whom Jesus loved is John, the author of the Gospel of John.)

“Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, ‘Follow me!’ Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. 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 21:19-22

After Peter learned what was laid ahead for him, he wanted to know what would happen to his friend, John. After all, they were both the closest disciples to Jesus and both ran to the tomb where Jesus was buried. Jesus gave him no answer except for a simple reply, “That is not your business.”

The reality is: God gives each of us a different journey of trials. Some may appear to be more challenging than others, but God never wants us to compare our challenges with each other. Instead, he wants us to make the kind of comparison described in Romans 8:18:

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us.”

Social psychologists were successful in identifying the fallen human race’s universal drive to compare themselves with others. But it is only through Jesus and His Word that we can break free from that destructive drive. When I am tempted to compare myself with others, I have to remind myself of verses such as Romans 8:18 and look forward to the glory that lays ahead.