Don’t Let Comparison Steal Your Joy

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Comparison is the thief of joy. ~ Theodore Roosevelt

This quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt is one that can resonate well with us all. As humans, we’re always comparing ourselves to each other. We choose someone else’s standard of living or success, and we attempt to hold ourselves accountable to it rather than focus on our uniqueness or distinct individual characteristics given to us by our Creator. We are made in our God’s image, and He gave us a standard in and through Christ, so ultimately His likeness should be our goal. We should strive to be Christlike, not copycat versions of each other.

If you stop and think about the lack of joy you may be experiencing in your life, likely you’ll be able to attribute it to comparison. You might be unhappy about your physical appearance because you’re comparing it to someone else’s standard of size, shape, weight, athleticism, etc. You might be unhappy about your career because you’re comparing yours to the standard of professional success you witness all around you. Or maybe you can’t find joy in your relationships because you’re comparing them to everyone else’s. Many people are quick to blame the media–TV, magazines, Hollywood, Facebook, Instagram, the Internet, and the list could go on. But, in the end, we get to decide our standards. We get to choose joy or misery. It’s easy to point the blame elsewhere, but we can only blame ourselves for not choosing to live the unique calling that our Creator God so beautifully and wonderfully made us to live (see Pslam 139:13).

So, are you unhappy? Do you struggle with finding joy and rejoicing with others? Are you always comparing your life’s successes or failures with someone else’s?

If the answer is yes, maybe it’s time to do a spiritual inventory within your own heart. Here are some suggestions to reflect upon:

1. Talk to God about His unique purpose or calling for you. God wants to guide you. He wants you to seek His direction. Ask God where and how He wants to use you, and then open your eyes to where He’s leading you.

2. Spend some time reading, meditating, and memorizing God’s Word. We seem to forget, but God gives us the answers to life’s greatest questions within Scripture. Sure, the Bible may not always be clear or make sense to the complex human mind, but there’s a great consistency throughout the entire message of the Bible. Don’t just chew on a few tidbits–really dive deep into Scripture and wrestle with it. Just be ready for God to wow you.

3. Redirect your worship to God Himself and away from others or the things of this world. There are distractions at every turn, but stay focused on the Lord. Don’t let the Enemy cleverly and cunningly win your full attention and keep you from being able to live a life of worship to God. Offer God the glory for what He’s doing in your life. Embrace an attitude of gratitude daily.

4. Find ways to serve and encourage others. The greatest joy is often found in investing our energies into serving and encouraging those around us. Use your words to uplift, not criticize. Celebrate others’ victories and successes rather than allowing yourself to be jealous or envious. As you lift up others, you’ll also find encouragement for yourself.

5. Stop comparing yourself to others. Just be the very best version of you. At best, you will only be a poor imitation of someone else, but you can be the greatest you that has ever lived.

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Why Misery Loves Company

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They say misery loves company. And whoever “they” are, I think we can all agree they’re right.

So why does misery love company?

We all know somebody whose outlook on life makes even Debbie Downer look good. He or she feeds on negativity, can’t seem to find any good in life, and is always the first to find fault or blame in someone or something. Ultimately, the person’s attraction to negativity always seems to find its way to anyone who will hop aboard the misery train and ride along with them.

Is there any hope for the miserable person…and his or her company?

Here are some thoughts to consider:

1. People who live in misery typically live in the past. Not only do they live in the past, but they can’t seem to let it go. Likely, someone or something has left them hurt and greatly scarred. Instead of moving on and forgiving, they still carry around the weight of the burden(s). Essentially, those who live in misery become shackled to the pain and blinded to the present-day beauty and joy surrounding them. Rather than using the past as a reminder of what they’ve overcome and marching on into the future, they’ve instead set up permanent residency in the “valley of misery.” The best way to overcome misery to move on, live in the present, and embrace the future.

2. Miserable people usually miss out on real life. Because they’re chained to the pain, most people who live in misery miss out on abundant life happening all around them. Since they feel lonely or abandoned, they tend to bask in their loneliness rather than unlocking the shackles and joining in on the friendships and relationships knocking at their doors. One of the best ways to defeat misery is to stay busy in community with others. Invest in family members you may not know very well. Intentionally plug into a small group at church. Volunteer with missions (local or abroad). Ultimately, put the energy toward serving others. That’s where real life happens.

3. People who live in misery are generally selfish. Though it may sound a bit harsh, it’s true. Misery promotes putting one’s own feelings and needs ahead of others. Selfless individuals are generally happier people. When one’s focus is on God’s will, taking care of those in need, and making the world a better place, there’s no time left to wallow in misery. Misery gets trumped when selfishness is bumped. Choose selflessness every time.

4. Living in misery is quite pointless. God created us in His image…with a real purpose–worshiping Him and helping others come to know Him. Our ultimate goal is eternity in Heaven, so no one should waste a moment making Hell on earth–for themselves or anyone else. Frankly, misery is a choice. When we choose misery, we deny who we were created to be. There’s no better strategy to combat misery than intentionally choosing joy.

When misery comes knocking, don’t answer. There is hope for the miserable person, and it’s found in living abundantly and joyfully as God has created and called us. Misery may love company, but joy loves company so much more.

Change–Face It and Embrace It

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A lot can happen in a year.

For me, 2012 was a year that brought a lot of change–change I wasn’t quite prepared for. But in the midst of the many unexpected changes along the way, I’ve experienced some of my life’s greatest blessings. And God has made me better–for Him and others.

Facing Change
I’ve always been the type of person who thrives on change. I like trying new things, new ways, at new times, and at new places. New experiences always make me appreciate old ones. New environments always give birth to a fresh creative spirit. New relationships always prove to better define past ones.

But as good as change can be, it’s never comfortable. Change requires surrender, and surrender demands a shift in pride. All in all, these are small sacrifices when it comes to the fruits of change.

My 2012 was uncomfortable. I surrendered several comforts along the way. My pride was then shifted. And now in 2013, I’m able to look back and see the fruits.

Embracing Change
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from facing change, it’s that you must also embrace it. It’s in the moments when you open your heart and mind to the changes that lie ahead that you begin to see God do a work inside you that’s beyond your realm of understanding. And the rewards are plentiful.

In 2012, I decided to embrace the changes before me. I surrendered my small realm of thinking and allowed God to do what only He can–make me better. I decided to trust His plan instead of the ones I had crafted on my own. And I discovered a life so much more abundant than I’ve ever known.

I survived several changes within my job and work structure. The fruit was found in embracing a new position in which I truly love and am able to creatively and passionately use my skills and talents for His glory. I allowed myself to invest in the pursuit of new relationships. The fruit was revealed when God opened my eyes to the most beautiful relationship in my life for the past twelve years–and in less than three months, I’m marrying my best friend. God has the most unique and beautiful way of orchestrating His plans. Let’s not hold Him back!

In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, we learn that “for everything, there’s a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (ESV). So often, we coast through seasons of life without acknowledging God’s perfect plans. We attempt to craft our own plans–and we fail. So we try again. And again. And eventually, we finally open our eyes to God’s perfect plan and begin to experience the abundance of His love. Don’t postpone joy.

In work, relationships, or life experiences, how do you deal with change?

Are there situations of change that God may be asking you to face…and embrace?

No matter the change that lies ahead, remember to look for God in the midst of it. Allow Him to change your heart and transform your life. And then–a year later–bask in the fruits of His plan and provision. A change can do you good.