Finding Freedom From the Condemnation of Comparison


A few weeks ago, I found myself in a swirl of self-righteousness and self-condemnation and comparison. It happened like this. I was heading into my sister’s wedding, and I started thinking about how I would look. I noticed that the tea I have been drinking in copious amounts every morning plus the lack of appointments at our dentist’s office had led to brown stains on my teeth. I noticed that the snacks and wine and less-than-regular exercise had led to a few extra pounds around my middle. My kids pointed out the gray strands of hair that have started to poke through. 

Comparison: Outward Appearances and Achievements

Then there was my assessment of my work. For years, I’ve struggled with how to balance family and household concerns and a calling to write and teach and speak. I’ve criticized myself for not getting enough work done. At times, I’ve hurt myself and my family by pushing too hard. In this pandemic season, it’s been an even greater challenge. Do I abandon my kids to their screens and work on a chapter of a new book? Will I ever write an essay worth publishing again? 

So I criticize myself, and then I look at people who seem to be doing what I wish I could pull off. I look at people who are fitter, more polished, more accomplished, more devoted. 

I compare based on our outward appearances and achievements. 

Comparison: Jealousy and Judgment

And here’s what happens: jealousy and judgment. I either think I’m doing “better” (Sure, I don’t make any money, but at least my kids are behaving themselves…) or I think I’m doing “worse” (I wish I could work like that, look like that, be like that). Either way—jealousy or judgment—I’m demeaning myself and another person. Either way—and I often pull off the feat of both jealousy and judgment in the same breath towards the same person—I am creating distance between me and another human being. 

I don’t want to live in these types of comparisons.

I don’t want to live in jealousy and judgment.

On this week’s episode of Love is Stronger than Fear, Niro Feliciano and I talk about the insidious nature of comparisons and how we increasingly live in a “comparison culture” (see minute 23 and following of this episode for more conversation on this). If I root my identity in my achievements, it will lead to judgment and jealousy. It will lead to self-righteousness and self-loathing. It will lead to distanced or broken relationships. It will lead to anxiety and despair.

But there is another way to live.

An Identity in Love

I can also root my identity in the love of God. I can find my nourishment in my belovedness that is independent of status or success. And when I do that, I don’t need to compare myself to the people around me. When someone is in need, instead of judgment, I can show compassion. When someone is succeeding, instead of jealousy, I can celebrate their gifts and accomplishments. 

An identity in achievement leads to judgment and jealousy.

An identity in love leads to compassion and celebration. 

Love stops the spiral of self-doubt and self-righteousness. Love offers peace and connection and joy. May we all have eyes to see ourselves—and everyone we encounter—through the lens of love.

To go further with Amy Julia:

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  1. Maria

    “Comparison is the thief of Joy” – Theodore Roosevelt

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