One of the primary thiefs to our joy is, and always will be, Comparison.
“I wish I was as fit as her.” “I wish I made as much money as him.” “Everyone else is more successful than me.” In the 1950s, psychologist Leon Festinger popularized the social-comparison theory. He argued that we all have the hardwired tendency to assess our self-worth by comparing ourselves to other people. And that this self-sabotaging behaviour invariably results in feelings of insignificance and insecurity.
He proved what we’ve all experienced: the temptation to envy or belittle the people around us is strong. It’s one thing to look at someone you admire and try to be more like them. Or to learn from someone and motivate yourself to change, we should do that. But comparison always takes it a step further.
Comparison looks at someone and immediately tells us we’re better than them or worse than them. Instant pride or instant depression. Think about it this way: comparison inherently cultivates ego, envy, jealousy, discouragement, resentment, discontentment, and on and on the list goes. (Talk about the opposite of cultivating joy!)
So what wisdom does the Bible give us on this? Let’s go back to today’s verse. If joy is a fruit of the Spirit, then it only makes sense that walking with the Spirit will produce the fruit! As Paul puts it, since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:25-26). Joy, then, is the fruit, or the by-product, of walking with the Spirit. Not from comparing myself to others.
We grow up being told that success means standing out. Not just winning, but beating everyone else. Jesus, however, told us success looks like service. It looks like putting other people first. It looks like laying our lives down. Do you want to do something awesome for God? Do you want to “rejoice always”? Forget what other people are up to. Go love people like Jesus.
Who do you need to quit comparing yourself to? Talk with God about why you do it and then ask him to help you stop.