We’ve all been there. Your child comes home from school raving about their friend’s brand new car and simultaneously makes you feel like a failure of a parent. Feeling the jealousy rushing in, you ask yourself, How can her parents afford that? Jealousy quickly turns to judgment as you attempt to make yourself feel better. I bet they skipped their tithes all summer in order to afford that car. Or maybe he’s a workaholic and never spends time with his family so they can have that type of money. I may not be able to give my kid a fancy new car, but at least I’m prioritizing tithing and family over wealth and material objects.
The comparison game starts before you even have children. You watch and judge how mothers and fathers choose to parent their children, and you are confident that you not only know better but will also do better when you are a parent one day. Then you begin to have your own children, and the game gets more serious. While you are learning the ropes as a new parent, it doesn’t take long to feel the judgments of others. Are you feeding him enough? Are you sure you want to give her a pacifier? You know what that can do to her teeth, right? Maybe you should give her more tummy-time. If you let him “cry it out,” he’s going to have attachment issues. You’re giving your baby formula instead of nursing him? If you go back to work, you are a selfish mother. Your baby still isn’t sleeping through the night?! Mine did at 3 months! Maybe you should try…and on and on.
Amidst all of the judgment, it’s easy to become insecure. Listening to other parents’ unsolicited advice on how to raise your children can make you question your methods. When you are insecure, you become envious, and when you are envious, you judge. For example, if another parent tells you their son made the honor roll this month but yours had a record high detention count, you might feel like this other parent is a better mother or father than you are. You may feel jealous that they are obviously doing something right because their child is excelling while yours is struggling. In response to your growing jealousy, you may try to justify their supposed superiority with assumptions. I bet they push their son too hard. He probably wants to play baseball, but instead they force him to study incessantly. They are squandering his childhood! These accusations might make you feel a little better about your perceived shortcomings, but it is a vicious, self-repeating cycle.
Social media plays a big role in this cycle because we tend to post only the “picture perfect” moments. Maybe your child has been a terror all day, and you finally get him down for his nap. You pick up your phone and start scrolling through your newsfeed, only to see perfectly placed bows, fun play dates, straight A’s, and happy families. This can be extremely discouraging in light of your trying morning. That mom has it all together. She balances everything seamlessly and makes it look easy. Her house is gorgeous, her laundry is folded, she made her family dinner, her dishes are clean, she is fit, her kids are stylish, her car is new, etc. In contrast, I haven’t showered in three days, I still have baby weight to lose, I wouldn’t even know where to find my makeup bag if I did have time to put it on, I haven’t been shopping for new clothes in over a year, my baby is covered in spit up and screaming, my teenager is failing math, I can’t remember the last time my husband and I went on a date, my house is a wreck, and we’re definitely going to have to pick up pizza for dinner tonight because I don’t have the time or energy to cook and the sink is overflowing with dirty dishes!
If I’m being honest, there are many days when I find myself discouraged and envious after checking social media. I’m not one of those moms who has it all together. My hair is pretty much always dirty, I can rarely get my makeup on, I eat too much sugar and don’t work out, my husband likes to cook more than I do (and is better at it, too), and you’re likely to hear my son having a meltdown in Walmart. When I scroll through my Instagram feed and see the countless women with their flawless hair and makeup, their toned bodies and defined jawlines, doing their fun activities in their spectacular cities with their obedient children, and hanging out with their fashionable friends in their perfectly decorated houses, I feel inferior. My life is not so “picture perfect,” and I am envious of the women they appear to be.
While I believe this habit of envious comparison can be particularly ruthless amongst mothers, it is certainly a struggle for fathers as well. How much money you make, how well you provide for your family, what car you drive, and how often you work out are all areas that men use to evaluate themselves compared to other men. Comparison leads to jealousy, which is an all-consuming monster. It will steal your joy and leave you with resentment, hatred, and misery. When you think the grass is greener in your neighbor’s yard, you become angry with God for giving them so much more than He has given you and angry with your neighbor for having it all.
In Psalm 25, David writes, “My eyes are ever on the Lord,” and in Hebrews 12, Paul admonishes us to “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.” How often we find ourselves looking elsewhere, taking our gaze off of Jesus. This usually means our sight, our attention is set on ourselves and those around us. We get so caught up in worrying about what the person next to us has, looks like, and accomplishes that we forget what Jesus has done for us. We care more about what we have on this Earth than eternity, and we find ourselves striving to outdo the person next to us while we’re here. This is truly foolish because my story is not meant to be the same as my neighbor’s. The Lord has given us each what we need, and many blessings. But we do not need the same things; we will not necessarily glorify God with the same tools. Who cares if my neighbor has better behaved children than I do? I was valuable enough to God that He sacrificed His only son so that I could have a relationship with Him. Everything else is secondary. My identity rests in that truth, not in how my performance, accomplishments, or appearance compares to someone else’s.
Be encouraged today. It is for freedom that Christ set us free! You are not a slave to comparison, envy, and judgment. You are a prized possession of the King of Kings, and that is all that matters.
Paul Anderson Youth Home