In the mid-1980s, Robin Leach greeted television viewers with his booming British accent. I can hear it in my head “Welcome to the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous!” He always ended the show with the phrase. “Champagne wishes and caviar dreams.” Leach took viewers through opulent mansions, garages brimming with luxury cars and vacation destinations for millionaires.
Three decades later, “reality tv” has us barraged with home makeovers yielding miraculous results in just a week. It’s entertaining but it’s something else, it’s a setup. Unrealistic expectations cause us to compare our lives to others. With the popularity of social media, now through Facebook and Instagram we can not only find more to covet, they’ll fill your feed with advertisements of anything you put into your search engine.
You don’t even have to tune in to shows or log into the internet to find yourself in the pit of comparison. Filtered photos, give an unblemished, unwrinkled view of our lives, and entice us to look at ourselves through a filter to make you appear as someone else. A mind of comparison looks for reasons to feel inadequate. Every aspect of our lives, from housekeeping to decorating to the size of the home. We do it with body image, job status and even in church we find it easy to lament our position of lack thereof.
Madison Avenue is the advertising mecca of the world. The goal is to always make you feel bad about what you don’t have so you’ll crave what they are advertising. They try and make you think they care about your needs. They plant ideas in your head about how your value will increase with their product. A few months after I purchased my first new car off the lot, complete with a loan and hefty interest I ran across a dream board I had made in the year prior. It had a woman heading into the gym. I know I placed it there because she was in good physical shape and I was trying so hard to have the perfect figure. What struck me about this ad was what the advertisement was for the exact car I had just purchased. I didn’t even have to remember the ad.
We don’t know who we are or at the very least we’ve forgotten who we are and what Scripture says about us. We keep trying to find ourselves but we’re looking in the wrong places. We look for man’s approval rather than realizing that we already have the approval of the one who made us.
What if covetousness is fed by an identity crisis? What would it mean if we really knew who we are?
We don’t trust the voice of the one who made us. We believe that life will get better if we acquire more. If we aren’t careful, our stuff begins to own us. Debt enslaves us. So does an abundance of things. The more you own, the more you must take care of or leave to your family who may not desire any of it.
We want the result we see in someone’s life but tune out the hard work that brought them there.
We live in a house with a story. When you walk up, you don’t see what it took to prepare the land, move the house from the other side of town or the emotional toll it took on our family to move one more time. They can’t envision the night my husband, while working under the house, believed that if the house fell on him at that moment, it wouldn’t feel more crushing than what it was taking to complete this project.
It’s easy forget, what we have is enough for right now. If the Lord has put a dream or vision of the future in your heart, he will also make a way for you to achieve it. That doesn’t mean he will always drop it in, sometimes the means he provides is your ability to pursue it.
What if what you were really looking for was right in front of you? Instead of changing your surroundings, what if you changed who you let surround you? We stand at church and sing “It may look like I’m surrounded but I’m surrounded by you.” Sometimes, even before dismissal, we log in and look at the selfie of that one friend who seems to have it all together. We surround ourselves with the message that “If only I had (fill in the blank), life would be better.”
It has been said that “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I would add that competition is thief as well. We will sometimes jockey for position at work, church or even at the PTA. We put position over relationships and often end up sabotaging the very thing we say we’re working toawards. Some will even recruit people to their side, not as a team but as supporters of an agenda. When we strip away the need to prove ourselves, we find the ability to bring unity and strength to the table.
We see others who are gifted as a threat to our opportunities. We fret over our abilities and worth instead of being thankful for right where we are. We forget that God designed us for this time, this place and these circumstances. Not so you could languish but so he can partner with you to fulfill his promises. It’s easy to forget that Scripture says: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Philippians 4:19-20 (NIV)
Determining your “need” is not filtered through the life of another. It’s determined through the God that created you. The God that sent His Son and adores you.
What are you depositing into the people around you? Are you depositing joy, kindness and love? Are you building them up or are you tearing them down? If you spend your time criticizing your “competition” or spending your energy finding the negative, you won’t have anything left to help build. Our identity will be in tearing down and not in rebuilding.
Many of us have become afraid of investing in others. The one thing they may bring to the table gets buried because we’re afraid of what it might do to our own position or worth. Instead of thankfulness for being trusted, we have nothing to show for it because we buried it out of fear.
Comparison skews our focus. Rather than accepting God’s goodness, we stare at what see as lack. We work towards things that don’t matter as we destroy relationships that do. We lose our ability to unify if we are constantly seeing others as competition. Our worth has been settled by the Creator of the Universe. Our calling isn’t determined by our position on earth but our position at his feet.
Can I encourage you to do this one thing? Trust God with the calling he has put on your life. Don’t compare what you have been given or even worked for to someone else. Christa Smith once said, “When you know you are called to a platform ministry, but no one has provided that place, are you willing to preach from the street corner?” The day I heard this I changed my focus to the “what” God has called me to do, not simply “how” he will fulfill my calling.