The Curse of Comparison

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When I was a young girl we played a game called MASH, which was a clever adolescent acroynym for Mansion, Apartment, Shack or House. There were other options too, like your job, spouse, car, number of children, etc. You concentrated on when to stay “stop” as your buddy drew a spiral on the piece of paper. Then the lines were counted for the number that would determine your ultimate fate. Would you live in a mansion or a shack? Would you marry that Jonathan Taylor Thomas (affectionately known as “JTT” by all women now in their late 20s to mid 30s), or that dorky guy from school? Just like “S” meant shack, you had to put a horrid option under each category just for fun.

tumblr_lt73swwerO1r4lmnho1_400Of course we all played this over and over again, laughing at results and making up new charts until we lived in mansions and drove sports cars. If only “living the dream” were as simple as drawing a spiral until you reached the desired number to count out all your hearts desires. Even at 12 years old, it seems like kids are filled with not only ambition but also greed and envy.

Nowadays I feel like kids have it much worse than we did growing up in the 90s. Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat advertise the highlights of everyone’s lives 24/7. It’s like looking through a yearbook 50 times a day, with entire sections dedicated to each individual. Granted, there are those who embarrass themselves by posting everything that goes through their minds (unfiltered) and photos that leave little to be desired (in more ways than one). But for the most part, people only give us the good stuff.

Yearbooks are filled with fun snapshots, funny moments, and the best of everything. Who won what, who was the team, and who was in the club? There are no pages that show who didn’t win the competition or make the team or the grades. Who would buy a book like that? Likewise people post the best of their lives on social media, because everyone wants someone to “like” whatever is posted. But this can easily lead to comparing our lives to those of others.

I admit to being guilty of thinking, “I wish I had time to vacation like that couple,” or “One day I want a house like that,” or even “My kid didn’t walk that soon.” To be completely honest, while I am happy for my friends it can also lead me to looking down on my own life at times. Phrases like “I wish” and “one day” are sometimes more dangerous than we think. It’s nice to have goals, but bad to let those goals become an obsession. Michael Snyder summed it up well in his article “Greed Is Good? Where Will America’s Sick Obsession With Wealth And Money End?” for Washington’s Blog:

    “And because we have taught entire generations of Americans that becoming wealthy is one of the primary goals in life, it is creating a tremendous amount of envy, jealousy, frustration and anger among those that have not been able to become wealthy.”

memeSometimes envy can even cross barriers beyond material items, like my example of comparing kids. All parents, myself included, enjoy sharing cute pictures of their children and videos of times they hit milestones or do something funny. But we can easily get into comparing our lives with everyone else’s, even if that was not our intention nor the intentions of those posting the pictures. I even caught myself feeling guilty at a church women’s event this past week.

The speaker was a great woman of God who spoke about leaving a legacy. She told of how she writes notes in various Bibles and keeps journals for each of her children and now her grandchildren. It all sounded great, and I took notes on her note-taking methods. Then I went home and felt total guilt. Me of all people, someone who makes a living as a writer, should do this. But when and how would I have time? My son is two and a half and I still haven’t filled out that page in his baby book titled “A Letter From My Mom.”

I slowly decided not to panic and reminded myself that this woman was a stay-at-home mom until her kids were grown. Not only that, but everyone has different ways of doing things. Her suggestions were great, but I should not feel pressured or upset if I don’t follow them verbatim. Part of creating a legacy is to leave something of your own making. And if legacy is what really matters, values and love will stand much longer than material possessions.



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About Kaci Lane Hindman

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