Comparison is the thief of joy
With so much noise in our lives, how do we make any kind of half-decent decision about who we are?
That’s the only way to describe it.
We are bombarded by advertising on TV, billboards, buses, in train stations, on trams, at the movies, and especially on social media, and all of it is telling us we don’t measure up because we don’t look right. That we’re incomplete unless we own the thing they are shilling. That we’re just not enough.
Instagram and TikTok are particularly insidious because the very nature of their platforms is to show people living their best lives, always looking glamorous, and now thanks to influencer-as-a-job culture it has developed into “hi guys, here’s a thing I think will transform the way you do your skin care routine/make up every morning/workout/whatever”. Nobody is posting images of the crap moments, of the days when their skin has broken out akin to the Great Dividing Range, or when everything just isn’t working and it’s all just a mess.
We might mindlessly scroll past all these images and videos however we all have our go-to people. The ones who have the tips we’ve used in the past that work great. The ones who are still also telling us we don’t make the grade. The ones who seem to have it all together.
In these moments we’re making a choice to agree with them. That we aren’t good enough.
Talk about a blow to your psyche and self-image!
When we allow ourselves to measure our worth in comparison to someone else, we’re admitting we need to do what they are saying to be happy. That we can only find joy by being like them…and that’s just not right.
We know we are known and loved by God. There’s lots of great examples in the bible reminding us, including this great passage from Psalm 139:
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
Psalm 139:13-14 (NRSVUE)
As teenagers, we’re starting to make decisions about who we are, where we fit, and what we want to do with our lives for the first time for ourselves. We’ll remake those decisions many times in our lives as we grow, however it’s the first time we make these choices that can shape us so distinctly.
Helping young people find their identity deeply rooted in the grace of God transforms this joy-stealing comparison-filled life. We become secure in who we are because God welcomes us as fearfully and wonderfully made, because of God’s incredible grace
Just as Paul reminds the Ephesians, so he reminds us of the importance of God’s grace in all our lives:
4 But when it comes to mercy, God is rich! He had such great love for us that 5 he took us at the very point where we were dead through our offences, and made us alive together with the king (yes, you are saved by sheer grace!). 6 He raised us up with him, and made us sit with him – in the heavenly places, in King Jesus! 7 This was so that in the ages to come he could show just how unbelievably rich his grace is, the kindness he has shown us in King Jesus. 8 How has this all come about? You have been saved by grace, through faith! This doesn’t happen on your own initiative; it’s God’s gift.
Ephesians 2:4-8 (NTE)
Forming our identity foundationally in God’s grace helps us remember that no comparison is required. God loves us, and welcomes us just as we are. We can’t earn God’s grace. We are enough for God, because God sees everyone of us as vital, valuable, and loved.
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Molk is the Young Adult Ministry Lead and Senior Field Officer (North) within the PULSE team.