Amidst the overwhelming noise of social media, we aren’t just living our own lives anymore. We have an audience watching us, and we’re watching others on similar paths, and far too often that game turns into comparison.
Jealousy. Envy. Emotions that require two entire Commandments to cover for all we may covet from our neighbors. If people were already eyeing each others’ lives back in biblical times, then I can hardly imagine how the Bible might have sounded written in our constant comparison today.
Knowing how prevalent this feeling is and how detrimental it can be to our overall well-being, what can we do to overcome it? Let’s look to many sources of inspiration for some guidance.
What about jealousy?
Jealousy is a frequent topic in Scripture for a good reason. In times of doubt and insecurity, the human mind turns to comparison. The emotions surrounding envy are very complicated, but they ultimately reside in a place of wanting what we don’t already have. It’s our nature to strive for more within ourselves and in our relationships with others, but when that comparison becomes overbearing and we begin acting upon it, that’s when we have problems.
We make sense of the world by labeling and ranking things in comparison to one another…why not apply that same concept to other people? Especially when judging how we’re situated in the world and in our fields of work and study, we have abundant resources to see what peers are doing and how we stack up. Even if that comparison is only considering someone else’s highlight reel, you evaluate yourself (much harsher than you should) and fall into an emotionally dangerous cycle.
And the worst part about this cycle? You will never win. There will always be someone who is prettier, stronger, smarter, and more accomplished than you are. If you turn on your tunnel vision and seek it out, you’ll always find it. All the time we waste wishing we had more friends, more money, and more success is taking away from actually making things happen for ourselves. Rather than working on your own goals and relationships, you’re wallowing in self-pity wishing for what isn’t and never will be yours.
What the Bible says.
Like I mentioned earlier, the Bible has many verses that reflect upon the dangers of comparison and jealousy. How many stories do we have that include people or siblings who feel like one is “beating” the other? Cain and Abel? Jacob and Esau? Obviously we know those narratives didn’t turn out well.
With jealousy comes violence, and with violence comes revenge. While most of us aren’t acting out and killing one another, we experience more emotional and mental warfare. We become resentful of others’ successes, and we tell ourselves we aren’t good enough, that we’re falling behind and failing. James 3:16 says, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” We become frustrated by always turning up with the same result of never being enough, and we then act out.
The good news about comparison and jealousy is that it’s a universal experience. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” Now it might seem silly to have an emotion that is tempting all of us and potentially causing added harm, and with that we might ask, why would God have us ever feel this way? We cannot alleviate a greedy world; there is too much for a single person to handle, and we don’t have to. However, by feeling envy ourselves, we can then find relief in our Father.
God’s love for us in enduring. He accepts us at every stage in life, regardless of what our social media profiles look like, and only He can judge our true natures. We don’t each have a crystal ball or ESP allowing us to see how every single person spends their days and lives or even what stage they might be at in their unique journeys. That is only for God to worry about. All we can do is rest assured knowing that He will always take care of us, and that we find true peace and security through Him.
Covetousness invades our minds when we aren’t satisfied with the blessings God has bestowed upon us. Dissatisfaction is only a terrible thing when we don’t let it lead us to Christ. Galatians 6:4-5 says, “Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.” If we feel troubled and lost, we should not pull out our phones, but instead turn to prayer and reflection. Social media is not the One who is teaching us, guiding us through this life and directing our paths, wherever they may lead.
One of my favorite Bible verses comes from Romans 12. The second verse says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.” The patterns we associate with “success” are man-made. We aren’t all supposed to be going to college, getting married, having a family, and earning a six-figure income at a prestigious employer. How easy (and BORING) would that be? By turning to Christ and our own instincts, we can distinguish where our true path lies, what will truly evoke happiness and peace, and follow it unchained by others’ expectations and judgments of us.
At the end of the day, the past and future do not exist. What matters right now is this present moment. If you are wholly satisfied with how you are, the person you are, the environment and people around you, how far you’ve already come…what more can you ask for?
I agree, this is all much easier said than done, but as with anything, it’s a journey. We won’t become zen gurus overnight and suddenly discover the secret to overcoming comparison. It’s probably something we’ll all face on a regular basis. For me, that even involved blocking some people on my social media accounts who inadvertently caused my great stress from my own comparison trap. Maybe you need some time off of social media to reflect upon your own life and goals, and maybe you’ll want to be around those who love and support you for insight.
Whatever it may be, I hope you can find a sense of peace you deserve. We might be all human, all wanting happiness and accomplishment and love, but that definition is not a one-size-fits-all interpretation. It will manifest differently for all of us, and true joy comes from supporting one another, expressing love and joy for them. And think of all the blessings already present in your life! God is seriously amazing, and He has so many more good things in store for you. Those things won’t be coming from a number of followers and likes, but from your own faith and hard work.
I’ve said a million times before, and I’ll say it again: you do you.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie