My granddaughter Emery and I were waiting for our turn to check out at Joann Fabrics when she noticed a girl around her age walk to the register with something in her hand. “What’s she got, Mimi?” she asked. I couldn’t see exactly what it was she held, but I did see a pink case, sparkling with glitter, and it appeared to have the potential to be messy. Really, really messy.
The kind of messy little Miss Emery loves. “I’m not sure what it is” was my honest reply. “Awww. That’s not fair. Why does she get to buy that and I don’t?” she asked with a frown on her face. And then she added, “If she gets to have that, why don’t I?” Oh, I thought. So it must be around age three and a half when you decide life isn’t fair and you take notice of what others have that you don’t. “Well,” I said, “Because she’s not shopping with me and you are. But you need to remember – it’s okay for her to have something you don’t. Just like it’s okay for you to buy these paints. She doesn’t have paints.” That’s when she was willing to give up the paints that, only moments before, she had been eager to purchase in exchange for the item held by another.
Earlier, before leaving for the store, she had wanted to turn her hands into painted handprint flowers and was disappointed to discover Mimi was out of children’s paint. I needed some fabric, so I promised we’d also pick up more paint. She talked about the paint the entire ride to the store; she was so excited and yet, one glimpse of the shiny item in the hand of another was all it took for her to decide the paint could go back on the shelf.
On the ride home, we had a chat about gratitude. I was about to move into explaining why she shouldn’t want what others have (that is, after all, number ten on God’s list: do not covet) when it began to occur to me how quickly I lose interest in what the Lord has given me. Especially when I catch a glimpse of His generosity towards others. I haven’t simply stumbled into the comparison trap, I’ve downright fallen, skinned my knees, and bruised my ego when I’ve failed to remember how generous He’s been with me.
Like Emery, I’ve had total contentment with all Jesus has bought for me; that is until I’ve seen another holding a gift which appears much more appealing. Theodore Roosevelt was onto something when he said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Comparison sure can stir up discontentment within my heart, making it impossible to celebrate with others along the way. We compare our waistlines, our incomes, our clothing brands, diet plans, job titles, spouses, and kids.
Social media can be a trap for us as well, as we compare who has more friends, likes, and comments. And honest-to-goodness, how a night pouring over Pinterest can usher in complete defeat as I compare home décor, crafting, and cooking creations to others while wondering why mine didn’t turn out like the one in the picture? I agree with Teddy: joy is quickly stolen when my eyes become clouded by comparison.
As I allow the Lord to change my identity – one letter at a time – I am moved by Paul’s words to the Philippians, “ Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have”(4:11, NLT). It’s time to…
C-Content with what you have.
Kolleen is the author of the devotional book, The ABC’s of Who God Says I Am. Read more by Kolleen at http://www.speakkolleen.com/