This quotation is credited to Theodore Roosevelt, but was also used by Audrey Hepburn. She was an intelligent, beautiful, and flawed woman, like most of us, with the main difference between us and her being that she got to star in a film with Gregory Peck, and also that she doggedly survived the German occupation of the Netherlands while in her teens. Considering her fame, this seems a paradoxical insight for her to have. However, whatever our lot in life, and increasingly in our digital, consumer culture, comparison is stealing our joy.
Every time I have come across the quote in the past, I have been struck by its truth. Laying in bed last night, tossing and turning, after a day of discontent, bad attitudes, and a sin-filled heart, the quotation lodged again in my mind. Lately I’ve been making my own life a misery by wanting it to be somebody else’s. It’s amazing how many things you can start comparing and becoming resentful and bitter and discontent about when you really think about it. For example…
- Walking down the street, and comparing unfashionable clothes with the better-dressed around me
- Wishing I had someone else’s body type, curly hair, spotless complexion, etc.
- Comparing my kitchen to somebody else’s
- Comparing (lack of) pregnancy with everybody else’s babies
- Wishing for someone else’s home, car, decorating ability, bargain shopping talent….
And the list goes on. Do you see how easily we can turn the blessings God has given us into disobedience to His command “Thou shalt not covet”? How we can throw the beauty of this world back in His face by ignoring it because of our focus on other people’s things? How we can scratch and scrape and the renovation He is trying to do in our souls, tearing down the good and infecting our hearts with craven desires? How we can miss the heart-throbbing wonder of the human lives around us by only focusing on what we do not have? How even in our churches, we can foster environments or comparison and discontent by veiled gossip and boasting masquerading as fellowship?
The frightening thing is, comparison is not the ultimate thief of our joy. We, our own hearts and flesh and desires, are the real criminals. We allow ourselves to compare and envy, and ignore God’s goodness to us. We throw the joy of Christ right out the window and let it smash into a thousand pieces on the ground, flying into the air and hurting everyone around us. Our children, who don’t understand why we are angry with them; our husbands, who need us to love and support and encourage them; our sisters in Christ, who need to be helped, not the objects of our petty jealousies.
What’s the solution? How can we steal our joy back? We can’t, but Christ can. His love, His Words, His truth, His Spirit, and His power permeating our lives can bring the beauty and joy back to our inner being. And shower it on those around us.
Let’s take our jealous hearts out of the comparing game. Let’s steal back our joy. Let’s look up to Christ. Let’s look out to others. Let’s open our hands to receive His joy. Let’s let him redeem us and change us into the joy-filled women, wives, mothers, friends, helpers, encourages, daughters, sisters, and new creations He wants us to be. And share what we have with others instead of wanting their stuff.
“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.
But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
I Timothy 6:6-9