Monday, October 19, 2009

The Comparison Trap

It is easy to feel overwhelmed as a wife and mother to 7 little ones who not only stays home, but homeschools. I often feel like I can't keep up with all that I have to do! This morning was one of those times. I started my quiet time with the Lord and decided to make a list of everything that was on my plate, even my imagined burdens, in order to give it over to God. My list became a page long! It was easy to despair as I read over my list and thought, "How in the world can I do all this?". The truth is, I can't. But, that doesn't make me feel better! It makes me feel frustrated. I began to pray about it and realized that often, when I am overwhelmed, it is because I am comparing myself to someone else. The goals I have for myself are often because I see someone else accomplishing something or having something, and I want that, too. The ironic thing is that I often take the BEST of 10 women and want it all rolled into 1 in me! I see that so-and-so always works out, so-and-so is so good at crafts, so-and-so always has a clean house, so-and-so always keeps up with correspondence, so-and-so is never behind in laundry, so-and-so is great at keeping a schedule, so-and-so always knows the right thing to say, so-and-so has had an easy adoption experience, so-and-so's children never misbehave, so-and-so makes gourmet meals and then I take all that and heave it upon my shoulders as the expectation of myself and lo and behold, I am discouraged. I don't know if you ever feel this way.

Here is what the Lord told me:

First, I have to STOP comparing myself to others. Instead, I need to run the race that the Lord has marked out for ME and run at the pace he sets for me. I am not called to run another's race or at their pace. Sure, there are people who often run alongside us for a season, to encourage us, to challenge us, to push us toward godliness, but we are not required to keep up with anyone. We are required TO FINISH. That's it. Persevere to the end. Paul says in Acts 20:24, "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may FINISH THE RACE and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given to me, the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." Yes, we are required to "run in such a way as to get the prize" (I Cor. 9:24), but that exhortation is intended to spur us on to finish, not to be better than everyone else!

In Galatians 5:7, Paul says, "You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?" Ouch. I fear that more often than not I am my greatest stumbling block in this race. I am the one who keeps me from obeying the truth because I begin to compare myself to others instead of keeping my eyes on my own race and on Christ!

Hebrews 12:1 says " . . . let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance THE RACE MARKED OUT FOR US."

Yes, on one level, we as Christians are basically all running the SAME race--the race of a life of being sanctified with the finish line being eternity with God. However, the paths He has chosen for each of us individually are SO different. Sometimes, we hit an obstacle and have to slow WAY down. Should we grumble as we see others passing us, effortlessly? Are they not running their own race marked out for them?

I was encouraged when I finished my quiet time that I don't need to accomplish half of the things I felt burdened by. I don't need to be like so-and-so. I need to run this race that God marked out for me with the gifts AND the weaknesses given to me. In fact, I can't do anything anyways without His help! I can't fix Abbie, I can't have joy in all circumstances without His doing it through me. In my own strength, I can't do it. So, I laid down my burden at the cross, and as many times as I go back to pick it back up, I will have to lay it down again because it hinders me from running my race!

In Christ, Laura


timandadri said...

Good one!!! :)

Anonymous said...

Loved this post! As a homeschooling mom with 7 kids from ages 20 to 2, I tend to compare myself with my peers who were moms with me when my first kids were babies. Most of them are in the latter stages of the job of mom, as their kids are in high school and college, and they have time to work out and be thin, and look put together and have their homes together and go on vacations with just their husbands, etc.... I feel so excited about my life, and SO blessed, until I compare myself to them, or think that they are judging me and wondering why I can't get it together. My friend shared something that I've loved about this. She struggled with this same comparison thing, until the Lord spoke to her from the passage where Jesus says to Peter (when he asked about what would happen to other disciples) "What is that to you?"...So now my friend wears a bracelet that says "WITTY" (What Is That To You?) to remind herself that what Jesus does in someone else's life isn't her business, that she just needs to finish HER race.

Also, I very much related to your statement that you look at the best traits of 10 people and expect to have all of those qualities in ONE you....So been there!

Great reminder...Thanks!

Lisa H.

Liberia Adoption said...

A friend and I were just having this conversation about being overwhelmed and feeling behind. Her husband told her well I'm glad you are 'behind' because our boys are learning to read. Our home is comfortable our meals are good. Maybe if you did everything you wanted it would be too much for everyone and things wouldn't be so good.

Ginny said...

I really used to battle with this and still sometimes do. Mostly I just try and keep my own priorities straight and not worry what other people are doing.
One goal I have for myself is to stop apologizing for the mess when people stop by! I am sure I apologized to you guys when you were here :)
We need to talk! Plan a visit! Compare chickens :)

Robin said...

What an encouragement. I need this reminder moment to moment. Thank you for allowing the holy spirit to type through you! I needed that.

Wife to the Rockstar said...

Great post Laura. And SO true. I do this to myself too. So often I am trying to be someone I am not.

ScienceGeek said...

This is my first time visiting your blog, and I really like it. I love this post in particular and it was something I needed to hear RIGHT NOW. Thank you for all of the awesome Scripture references. My favorite part was when you explained that you were taking the BEST parts of 10 different people and trying to roll them into 1 you! That is an awesome concept that I'd never realized I was doing before. I will definately keep that in mind the next time I start comparing.

One thing that I've come to realize is that when I learn that visitors are coming and I rush around the house trying to make it all seem perfect (or that I'm a perfect housekeeper-which I'm not) I'm actually being deceitful. I'm not saying that it isn't a good idea to make sure the toilet is flushed and so on...but when I try to make the house look "perfect" and not even lived-in....I'm trying to appear like I'm something that I'm not, and that's like lying. So lately I've confessed to my close friends that I am not a good housekeeper, and I've tried to not get so upset if people see my house the way it really usually appears.

I've also struggled with making the way others think about me an idol. When I spend my time and let my mind be consumed with how others perceive me, or when I obsess about what others think of me, I am making those things an idol in my life.

laura mouro said...


I can totally relate to racing around to clean before others come over so that it appears this is how we always live. It is a blessing for others to visit a clean house, but so often my motivation isn't to bless others, but to save face. The deception of "my house always looks like this" is so tempting.

I also can struggle with letting what others think about me becoming an idol. It is such a fine line between becoming "all things to all people so that by all possible means we might save some" and no being ourselves in order to gain approval.

I guess it all comes down to our heart motivation.

Liberia Adoption, my husband has told me the same thing! When I complain that I can't get it all done, he tells me I am focusing on what is best in this season in life.

Lisa, I love that question as a reminder of where our hearts are--"What is that to you?" So true.

Ginny, yes, a visit is LONG overdue! Anyone else want a visit? ;)