The Comparison Trap
Tired of looking at everyone else’s perfect relationships and family? Learn how to escape The Comparison Trap!
INTRO / YOU’RE IN A TRAP
(Show forgotten Identity slide)
All right, let’s get into our message.
Since almost the beginning of time, we’ve been comparing ourselves with one another.
All the way back to Cain and Abel (the first children ever born on earth)
And perhaps where our comparisons and competition runs deepest is in connection to our relationships…our families, our marriages, our kids.
This is nothing new.
Centuries ago, people used to say, “Wow, I’m jealous of your wife…she has teeth”
Comparison is nothing new…but in this century, it is indeed worse than ever…thanks to this new drug called Social Media.
It used to be you would compare yourself maybe with your neighbors, co-workers, your family members, a few friends…and really that was about it
Maybe your old classmates at your high school reunion every 5 years.
But now, we compare our lives with hundreds of other people…for an hour (or more) every day.
Studies show that many Americans check social media 15-20 times a day
And so the vast majority of Americans are absolutely trapped…in the comparison trap.
(Put up Comparison Trap slide)
We’re going to talk about a number of different topics in our new series, Forgotten Identity, that we’re starting today.
And a lot of them revolve around this idea of comparing…
But today, I want to specifically focus in on the type of comparing we do when we compare our family and relationships…
No matter what demographic or life stage you’re currently in, if you’re breathing, you feel the pressure to compare yourself to others.
If you’re single, and you’re desiring to get married someday…it’s not just that you have that desire…
In 2017, you live in a world where you have to stare…5 times a day…at:
Couple A who just had a romantic dinner downtown and is showing their food to everyone (oh good for you!)
While you are eating microwavable White Castle Sliders…at home…alone.
You scroll down to Couple B…on another romantic vacation to an island in the Caribbean that you didn’t even know existed.
Or if you have kids…you probably feel like you never measure up.
“Oh look, there’s so and so…who just took their kids to Disney……AGAIN!
When all you can afford is Como Zoo…which is free… (kind of…they stare at you if you don’t put money in their very see-through box)”
And so this kind of stuff is just coming at us…all day long…even if you’re 1 of the handful of people in this room not on Social Media
All day long, all of us, fall into the comparison trap.
And sometimes, we feel better about ourselves by talking about those we deem inferior to us.
“Oh…I can’t believe they do that with their baby. Obviously they haven’t read the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics!”
And other times, we feel worse about ourselves by looking at those we deem superior to us.
“They look so happy together in every photo…and here I am…divorced.”
But both of those things have us chasing the carrot right into the comparison trap.
And pretty soon, we’re living our lives, and making our decisions based off of what other people do…and we’re trying to live up to some unattainable standard that our culture is constantly changing
And it’s shaping our identity and our lives.
Think about how much comparison goes on.
If you fall and love and decide to get married, you have to do it just right nowadays.
I remember asking my dad how he proposed to my mom.
He looked at me like, “Son, that is a dumb question.”
He said, “We stepped inside this room at the music building at college, and I asked her to marry me.”
End of story.
Well, a generation later, when it was my turn, things had just started to get more elaborate.
I planned out an elaborate day and scheme (scheme sounds like the wrong word here ) to propose.
But that was in 2003, Facebook wasn’t even invented yet
And now, everything is filmed…and documented…not just lived.
You have to COMPARE how your special moment was…compared to everyone else.
Can you even be present in the moment or are you just thinking about how it will compare online?
Are you enjoying your wedding day, or just wondering if everyone will envy your wedding when they see the pictures online later?
Having a baby?
We’re on pace to have 20 babies born at our church this year.
That’s right 20… (to sign up to work in the nursery… )
See, you can’t just HAVE a baby anymore!
The most important thing is HOW you announce it to the world.
What will you do?
Will you hold up a pair of blue baby shoes?
Will you make a heart around her now pregnant stomach?
Will you do a gender reveal party?
Cupcakes or regular cake?
Make sure you have a photographer on hand, because everyone WILL be comparing how UNIQUE your gender reveal announcement is!
And then, once the child is born, the real comparing begins.
Are you nursing? Using formula?
Will you let your baby cry it out and answer their every cry?
And let me give you 10 reasons why both will ruin your child for life
Having a baby digs you deeper than ever before into the comparison trap…
What about baby milestones?
Is your baby not sleeping through the night yet?
You know whose baby is? Super mom on Instagram! The one you follow…your friend…your frienemie…
Is your toddler not walking at 15 months?
“Oh look, their 15-month-old can not only walk, but can already read!
And on and on and on and on…it goes.
Ask the parents in this room of 10 year olds or 15 year olds if the temptation to “the comparison trap” ever goes away?
Even if you’re a parent of adult children, it’s still hard to escape the comparison trap
“Oh, your kid grew up to be a doctor? Wonderful :/”
…As you think about your own adult child who won’t move out of your basement…
But we’ve got to find a way out of this trap.
And you can’t find your way out by trying to out-do everyone…which by the way, is the typical American solution to the anxiety we feel inside about this
Because every time you compare yourself to someone else, and try to catch up to them, or out-do them, it just digs you deeper in.
Did you ever play with a Chinese Finger Trap as a kid?
It was a tube made of something that looks like straw that’s just wide enough for you to stick your two fingers in?
But once you’re in, the harder you try to pull your fingers out, the tighter it gets?
That’s what the comparison trap is like.
Comparison is a game that everybody plans, but nobody ever wins.
Because there’s always going to be someone’s family that has something or does something better than you do.
I once heard someone say, “Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all”
You cannot be happy and envious at the same time. It’s impossible.
Nothing kills contentment like comparison.
We can’t measure our lives by how someone else is living theirs.
Besides, keep in mind that you should never compare someone else’s highlight reel to your behind-the-scenes documentary.
Do you know what I mean?
We just hear about everyone’s best of their best.
A few Sunday’s ago, I was showing some people a video in the hallway of one of my parenting fails.
And as I showed it to a few people, and I felt like everyone’s reaction was basically, “Oh good, he’s sometimes a terrible parent too”
Yeah, I am!
I was at the park with my kids and my friend Patrick Vesperman and his kids.
And our 3 preschoolers were pushing our two 1 year olds on the merry-go-round (which, you can see where this is going)
Watch my son Lincoln, in the grey shirt on the right.
(PLAY MERRY GO ROUND VIDEO)
He was fine, he fell into a pile of mud, so it was like falling on a pillow…a dirty pillow
This is why the Bible specifically teaches us not to compare ourselves with others…because it knows you don’t see ALL of their life.
God knows this is a trap!
The Apostle Paul, in talking about other Christian leaders who thought they were overly awesome, says this:
(2 Corinthians 10:12) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION!!!
Oh, don’t worry; we wouldn’t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!
Or look what he teaches in Galatians:
(Galatians 6:4-5) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION!!!
Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. 5 For we are each responsible for our own conduct.
One of the first reasons God doesn’t want us to fall into the comparison trap is because you’re each responsible for your own lives…
Other people aren’t your standard of measurement, firstly because God has a unique plan for YOUR life.
There are unique things He wants you to do…
Even when it comes to your family.
Maybe His plan is that you get married later in life…or even that you don’t get married.
But if you spend all your days comparing your life with His plan for someone’s else life, you’ll simply be miserable.
(Ephesians 2:10) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION!!!
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
You are each a different masterpiece of God’s…with a different and unique plan.
REMEMBER YOUR IDENITY
Let me give you another reason why God doesn’t want us comparing our lives to each other:
God doesn’t want you to find your identity in how you measure up to others.
I mean, let’s think about this.
What’s at the root of all of this?
It’s not just jealousy or coveting.
There’s something underneath that.
It’s, “I need my relationships…or my marriage…or my kids to be just as good as yours…or better than yours. I need that!
And why do we need that?
Because for most of us, it’s what’s defining us
“I’m okay. Because…I’m married. Because my kids do ___.
Or even more dangerous, is the lie that goes, “I WILL be okay when I meet someone…or when I can have a baby..”
If we say that, we’re staking our identity in our human relationships rather then in our relationship with God.
But as Christians, we mustn’t forget our identity in Christ.
And that’s really hard to do.
Especially when the comparison trap is knocking at your door 17 times a day.
So how do you do this?
You define your life and relationships, first and foremost by your relationship with God.
(John 1:12) – NIV
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God
You are God’s child, and that’s the main way you define yourself
So when you feel the comparison trap coming back….
Maybe you’re a mom or dad of young kids, and you find yourself scrolling through Instagram, and every photo seems to be a parent with their 3-year-old kid holding up participation trophies from their Karate class, Ballet group, or Megablock Architecture contest…
And soon enough, you’re searching online for enrollment into the next competition…
Don’t forget your true identity.
You don’t have to be super mom…or super dad.
You, yourself, are first and foremost a child of God.
That’s where you need to find your worth.
And if that’s true, it should actually change your focus for parenting.
Paul breaks this down really well in Ephesians 5
(Ephesians 5:1-2) – NIV - Leave up for 30 seconds
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
We imitate God in love…because we’re his loved children.
Because our identity is in Him.
And therefore, I shouldn’t have to fight so hard to show everyone else that I’m keeping up or I’m better than them.
I’m already God’s son.
Anybody else in here God’s child??!?
I’m loved by Him…and it’s amazing.
I’m loved by the most important being to ever exist.
It’s like, ‘Do you even know who my Father is?
And I’m His Son!
And He loves me!
That’s my identity!
And so I don’t have to chase this identity of HAVING to be super dad.
I don’t need to find my identity in being the dad who teaches all of his sons to fix cars by age 10…or hunt…or fish…
None of those things might ever happen, and that’s okay.
My identity is in Him, and in Imitating Him…not everyone else.
And for those of you that are parents, do you know one of the reasons that it’s so important that your identity in Christ is enough for you?
Because if you’re finding your identity in the comparison trap, guess who else will?
I look at so many of the young kids, and even high school students of today’s world, and they are constantly trying to out-do each other…
Each trying to be more involved than the next, more unique than the next, more successful than the next.
But where did they pick that up?
From their parents.
And unfortunately, whether consciously stated or not, the #1 goal of most (even Christian) parents is that their kids grow up to be successful.
And so our kids are SO involved. SO busy.
In sports, in extracurriculars, in every club, in every activity.
WHY?? Why do we put them in so many things?
So they can get smarter, develop social skills, leadership skills, build their resume for college.
And part of that…is then they’ll reflect back well on us…and WE can compare well again to our peers.
Now, as a parent you might not state that “success” is your goal for your child…or that “success” is the identity you’re trying to shape, but their schedule says otherwise.
I’m always just absolutely baffled (hard word?) by Christian parents who have their kids miss church, youth group, missions trips, you name it (things that will teach them what life is really about)…because of sports or clubs or band or you name it.
It’s the comparison trap!
If they’re going to keep measuring up…they need to stay in traveling this…or competitive this…
And what do our kids learn from this??
Surely not that their identity is as a child of God!
For so many of our kids, that’s the last place they think they should find their identity, because the schedules we’ve organized for them are screaming otherwise
I want you to hear me very clearly on this…if you’re a parent of a future parent:
Your aim…is that your child grows up to learn that their identity (where they find their worth)…is in their relationship to Christ…not in what they accomplish.
Let me tell you my parenting philosophy:
The most important thing to me in the world…is that my 3 kids grow up to love Jesus.
I love sports…but I don’t care if my kids are terrible athletes.
I love to learn…if my kids are terrible at school, so be it.
If my kids never want to join a club, can’t kick a soccer ball, don’t know how to play an instrument, and even drop out of high school, BUT…BUT…they love Jesus with all their heart and want to change the world for Him.
I will be SO proud. That is absolutely all that matters to me.
And so I want to help shape their lives, their schedule, their thinking…that their LIFE is ABOUT…their relationship with Jesus.
Do we still try at school? Absolutely.
Do we still do other things. Yeah, Sure.
But will those things ever take the #1 seat, hopefully never.
Because where your heart is, there your treasure is.
And where your child’s time is, there their identity usually is.
Besides, as Jesus says, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet lose his soul?”
So let your children see that Jesus is the most important thing to you.
Let them see that His love and acceptance of you is the thing that drives you…not the comparison trap…not what everyone else is doing.
If we forget our identity, they won’t understand theirs.
PRACTIAL STEPS TO AVOIDING THE TRAP
So how are you going to avoid the comparison trap?
For some of you, it’s as simple, practical, and maybe as difficult, as just walking away from social media.
If that’s what’s got you stuck in the comparison trap…than walk away from it.
Now listen, this is not Renovation Amish Church.
I’m not asking you to withdraw completely from the culture.
Go ahead and film your fancy engagement and put it on YouTube.
But if you find in your heart, that many of the things you’re posting online…is to find your identity in them…then call it an identity idol, and walk away from it!
As Jesus says in Mt 5, if you’re right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.
I know a number of people in our church that have just walked away from it.
And to a person, I don’t know one person who’s said, “I was way happier when I was seeing everyone’s fake life everyday”
Again, maybe it’s not a problem for you…if that’s you, good for you…keep sharing your story on Instagram.
Let me give you a helpful question to help you decide where you need to pull back from comparing your life with others:
When you engage with social media (or even if you’re just a grandparent showing a picture on your phone of a grandkid to your coworkers)…
The question we need to ask ourselves is: “Am I doing this because I’m just generally happy and sharing love…or do I want something out of this exchange?”
Is this exchange feeding my identity somehow?
Do I feel better because surely my co-workers will envy me when they hear my grandkid say, “I love you grandma” 14 times in the video?
Seek your identity in Christ instead!
When you can live more in your identity in Christ, and less in the comparison trap, it will significantly increase your contentment.
Which will absolutely increase your joy with the life you’re living.
And the absolute best way you can avoid the comparison trap is to press deeper into Him
Scottish Pastor, Thomas Chalmers once said:
“The best way to overcome the world is not with morality or self-discipline. Christians overcome the world by seeing the beauty and excellence of Christ. They overcome the world by seeing something more attractive than the world: Christ.” – Thomas Chalmers
And that’s really the theme of this series for the next few weeks
Let’s remember that who we are in Christ…is infinitely better than any accomplishment, any relationship, or anything else we could do in this world.
Let me pray
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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