Comparison is the thief of joy is a quote often touted by Christians. But who said comparison is the thief of joy?
While you may think it’s Albert Einstein or Oprah Winfrey or even Jesus in the Bible– you would be incorrect! It’s actually not a Bible verse, but a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt. And while this piece of wisdom can be helpful to Christians as we choose joy and it certainly aligns with Scripture like…
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
How comparison can steal our joy as Christians
Comparing and contrasting may be how scientists isolate genes and find cures for cancer. But that’s a far cry from the kind of comparing we do. Comparing things like
- Our bodies
- Our jobs
- Our social lives
- Our marital status
- Our home size
- Our kids ability to identify colors at 10 months
- Our parenting
- Our faith
- Our bank account
But of course we always end up comparing someone else’s glamor shots to our B roll footage. We compare our friend’s best day to our worst day. We compare our fitness level to a Peloton instructor’s. We compare our camping vacation to our friend’s highlight reel of Disney photos. We compare our “totally mom-tastic wardrobe to our most fashionable friend or worse yet, an influencer paid to stay on top of style trends.
This comparison trap is at odds with a vibrant spiritual life.
Paul says just how futile comparison is…
“Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” (NLT)
I really appreciate the apostle Paul and his sassy “obviously” in this translation. But he’s right! Of course, if I want to live a life with following Jesus as my aim, of course, I can’t be out comparing my life to others, tacitly seeking their approval.
What Bible verse says comparison is the thief of joy?
Actually, no Bible verses says that! But there are lots of Bible verses in the Word of God about contentment like…
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it
1 Timothy 6:6-7
5 Ways to stop comparing and find more joy
1. Distance yourself from avenues of comparison.
You may be so used to silently comparing yourself to everyone else that you don’t even realize how prevalent comparison has become in your life. While it’s great to look up to a role model, comparison is often done negatively, not as a way to inspire you to a better job, more active social life or improved marriage or better mental health. To stop the comparison game stop going where the players are!
- You may need to curate your social media feed. Stop following others’ lives who make you feel less than or inferior.
- You may need to get off social media platforms all-together.
- You may need to delete Zillow from your phone.
Choosing to distance yourselves from the methods you usually use to compare your own life to others is a wise way to turn off the flow of comparison in your life.
After a season, you may be able to return to those things, but I find taking regular breaks from social media helps me when I’m struggling with comparison in my current situation and can’t seem to stop.
RELATED: HOW TO DITCH MOM GUILT FOR GOOD
2. Remind yourself you never see the whole picture of someone else’s life.
While the grass may look greener on the other side of the fence, you never see the whole picture of anyone’s life. You don’t see how hard they’ve worked. You don’t know what they’ve given up to get what they have.
You may not see the all risks they’ve taken or the failures they’ve had along the way.
You only see the beautiful home, not the teenager who won’t speak to them.
Remind yourself that joy is multifaceted and you probably aren’t seeing the full picture of anyone else’s life. A happy life can look different for every person. Say this out loud or write it down in a journal when comparing thoughts build up inside you.
3. Keep a record of what brings you joy.
I had three kids in three and a half years and I remember when my littles was a baby–feeling completely exhausted and out of joy. I didn’t even know what actually brought me joy at all.
I was so stuck in exhaustion and comparing my life to others who “had it easier” that I wasn’t even able to say what would bring me joy. I need any easy first step. I began to shift my focus from all I didn’t have to what I could do. I could do one thing a day that lit me up and made me more joyful.
I began to intentionally add more moments of joy into my life and I kept a record of what great things I tried and what made me feel happier.
The first day it was a cup of hot chai tea. Another day I painted my toenails.Another night I took some precious, precious non-kid, non-baby moments and deep cleaned my house. Who loves a good stress-relief cleaning session?! I realized having a sink free of dishes and a floor not crunchy with cereal really lit me up. I realized doing a craft was NOT something that brought me joy.
I realized that time spent at the feet of Jesus–reading the Bible, praying to God, and singing worship songs back to God–brought me joy like nothing else!
4. Create more opportunities every day for joy.
As I figured out how to lesson comparison and what brought me joy, I first thing simply began to add more joy in my everyday life.
Not pining after massive vacations, but a playlist that made me smile while I drive me kid to preschool.
Or creating a weekly pizza movie night on a night that typically brought me stress. Ask yourself, “How can I make this normal thing easier and more joyful?”
It’s okay to ask for a night away from your kids or for a more regular date night with your husband. God didn’t make any mind readers, so kindly communicate how you want to pursue joy and know you’ll probably need to communicate regularly about it too!
Ask your spouse what would bring them joy to do together. Ask your kids what would bring them joy on a Saturday morning.
Create rhythms in your life that bring more joy to your everyday moments!
5. Cultivate Thankfulness
Joy and thanksgiving are powerful tools to create contentment in our lives. In her book, 1000 Gifts Ann Voskamp tells how she began a journal recording 3-5 things a day she was thankful for. Her goal was to have a record of 1000 gifts from God. These weren’t red-letter moments like God gifting her a car or her family magically winning a vacation to Cabo, instead they were little things– like the way the dew sparkled on the grass or her child’s hair shining in the sun or Saturday mornings eating doughnuts with her family. And as she began to notice with the intention of being THANKFUL, her life became more joyful.
You can be thankful for little things like…
- Hot cups of coffee
- Texts from a friend
- Story reading
- Bedtime songs
- Sunshine on a cold winter day
- Gap-toothed smiles from a kindergartener
- Phone call from my sister that makes me laugh
- Working plumbing and God-blessed plumbers
- And the smell of freshly washed baby skin.
As I’m thankful I begin to see the joy in my everyday stuff–and it’s a wonderful way to live! It’s been there all along…waiting for me to stop comparing and see the gifts already in my life.
If you want more help in growing your joy check out my free Vibrant Mom Starter Guide. In 10 minutes you can have my best practical pathways to creating more joy and purpose in your everyday moments.
When “comparison is the thief of joy” is not helpful
I have seen comparison is the thief twisted in a negative or harmful way to explain away injustice.
For example, you as a woman are getting paid less than a man doing the same job.
“Well, comparison is the thief of joy.”
Well, no. Fair wages are expected for doing your job.
Comparing and contrasting are how we learn things–and sometimes how we can envision a better life. Comparison can be used wisely and in a beneficial way, too.
Don’t let “Comparison is the thief of joy” become weaponized by those with poor boundaries or an inclination to spiritual or emotional abuse.
Other Quotes on Comparison
“Hike your own hike.”
“Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle, or your middle to someone else’s end. Don’t compare the start of your second quarter of life to someone else’s third quarter.”
― Jon Accuf
“Comparison is the death of joy.”
― Mark Twain
“When the Lord makes it clear you’re to follow Him in this new direction, focus fully on Him and refuse to be distracted by comparisons with others.”
― Swindoll Charles R.
“Personality begins where comparison leaves off. Be unique. Be memorable. Be confident. Be proud.”
― Shannon L. Alder
Comparison can lead to discontentment and insecurity for Christians. Choose instead the path of joy and satisfaction that can only be found in a relationship with Jesus. Seek to add joy in your life as you faithfully walk with the Lord.
Check out SHE’S NOT YOUR ENEMY:CONQUERING OUR INSECURITIES SO WE CAN BUILD GOD’S KINGDOM TOGETHER BY JENN SCHULTZ to deep dive this topic!
Have you struggled with comparison stealing your joy?
What has helped you find joy and contentment?