How Comparison Kills Contentment

I was always a pretty good basketball player. As I went through junior high, I was one of the bigger kids on the team and often led the team in either scoring or rebounding. I assumed this would continue as I got older, but something weird happened during that summer before I started high school. All of the other kids seemed to catch up to me in height.

My advantage had been negated. Although my game had not worsened, all of a sudden I felt like one of the worst players based solely on the physical changes in others. As a result, I turned in one of my worst seasons. The comparison had crippled me.

Our greatest barrier to contentment is our tendency to compare ourselves to others. It is human nature to see the grass as always being greener in the lives of others, no matter how brown it actually is. We can easily think of friends and neighbors as leading more successful and fulfilling lives. But are they really? On what do we base this comparison?

What makes this association dangerous is our inclination to attribute positive traits to others based on very limited information. For example, when we meet someone to whom we're physically attracted, we generalize and assign many other positive traits to them.

Only after we have spent significant time with them does the fantasy begin to crumble and our view of them becomes more reality-based.

So what does this have to do with contentment? When we always assume overly positive traits about others, we have no healthy frame of reference with which to compare ourselves. It becomes a barrier to contentment to assume that others are consistently looking, feeling, and living better than ourselves.

Unfortunately, we tend to do the opposite to ourselves. Our focus is usually on our problems and the difficulty of our journey. it seems that we are in a competition to see who can project the greatest amount of unhappiness. We tend to bemoan yard work instead of being thankful for the yard. We grumble about our commute to work instead of being thankful for the job. We complain about belly fat instead of being thankful for our health.

True contentment is independent of any comparison to others. If you are content with he provisions of God, you cannot be concerned with the provisions of your neighbors.