February is a month when couples share their love for one another and focus is often placed on a relationship that at other times has been ignored. Over the next few weeks at Open Door Church we are delivering a series entitled “Marriage, Money & Making Babies” where we are looking at relationship issues in our marriage, finances and parenting. We are also offering some classes on Wednesday that will deal with specific words that affect those areas. Our first word is “comparison”. Comparison is a word that affects our marriage, our finances and our parenting. Though there are times when comparison can assist us in evaluating where we need to improve or make changes, there are problems with comparison that will often create unexpected difficulties in our own life. Here are three problems with comparison that I have identified.
We Rarely Have All of the Information
We see things with our eyes but we do not always understand what we are seeing. The main reason is because we do not have all of the information. A nice car or a nice house does not always equal a nice life. Sometimes people have or do certain things in order to make up for deficiencies in others areas of their life. We see our co-worker get flowers from her husband and immediately think how sweet and thoughtful he must be. Little do we know that he may by trying to make up for some indiscretion prior to that event. We make judgments based on what our eyes see or ears here, but rarely are we fully informed to make the same application in our lives. If we had to choose between having a spouse we could trust or one that sent flowers, we would choose trust every time. The problem comes when the only information we have is the flowers.
Relationships are complicated. Whether it is the relationship with our spouse, our children or our money, we cannot judge what we have based on what we see others have. How you approach each of those issues is influenced by tons of information. The same is true of the person or people to whom you compare yourself. The problem is that you only have the information that influences your choices or decisions, you do not have their information. You only have the outcome. If you knew all of the facts, you may possibly make different choices than they did in the same situation. Use your own information to make your best decisions.
We Do Not Know The Cost
There is a cost to everything in life. To get one thing we have to give up something else. For example we can go to a restaurant for a meal but there is a cost. Sometimes we do not even calculate all of the costs. There is a cost to get to the restaurant. There is time involved that we have to pay. Then there is the cost of the meal. It is not always as simple as an exchange of money. Everything in life comes with a cost. When we compare our lives, possessions, parenting or marriages to others, we often do it not knowing the full cost the other people had to pay to get what they have. What did they have to sacrifice to get what they have? One of the most common areas of comparison is in the area of finances or more specifically possessions.
For example, consider the purchase of a new house. We see someone in our circle of friends get a new house and suddenly we have a desire for one. We only see the surface cost or the purchase price of the house. But there are probably some additional costs of which we may not be aware. We do not know how much extra work they had to do to earn the money for the house or have to continue to do in order to make the monthly mortgage. They may have had to work 10 additional hours of overtime per week. You may think you are capable of that, but that extra 10 hours costs something as well. It is time not spent with your spouse. It is an extra toll on your health and body. It is a missed school program or ball game for your child. All of those things play into the cost of something. Sometimes we gain the house, but lose significant closeness with our spouse or children, which is a much higher cost than making a house payment. Everything in life comes with a cost. When we make comparisons we are often at a disadvantage because we do not know the full costs of what others have.
We Are Often Disappointed
When we compare ourselves with others and the things that they have and we set out to get what others have or become what others are, we set ourselves up for disappointment. One of the biggest reasons we are disappointed is because we are each created with unique gifts, talents and purpose. When we try to live out what God has gifted others to do, we often find emptiness because it is not what we were designed to do. God created you to be you. You are the most qualified, in fact the only qualified, person to live out what God has for you. Anytime you attempt to be something that God did not design you to be, you feel inadequate and unfulfilled. Trying to live out the dreams of other people is a road that rarely ends in a place where you are satisfied.
Comparison is dangerous. Comparison leads to dissatisfaction. It can offer guidance at times to improve, but more often it leads to jealousy and unrest because we are attempting things we were never meant to do or have. Live the life you were designed to live. It is the most fulfilling and rewarding thing that you can do.