| from Melissa Hannigan |
We see it in toddlers. “He has a better toy than me and I want it!” Comparison and looking around to see how we measure up. It’s something we don’t have to be taught, we do it instinctively.
And as we grow up it doesn’t really get any better. The things we compare may change but the desire to have what they have doesn’t change one bit. We compare grades in school, the kind of clothes we wear, or how popular we may be.
Teens compare the number of social media followers and how many likes, comments, and shares they get on social media posts. Young adults compare marital status, career paths, number of party invites, kinds of cars, physical appearance, and the list goes on.
But even as adults we are still comparing ourselves to others. We compare how our houses look, how our kids behave, how much money we have or don’t have, what kind of vacations we take, how great our Christmas card turns out, or if we even get around to sending a card (we definitely didn’t this year). We compare how elaborate our birthday parties are, or how “put together” our lives seem on social media, and so many other things?!
No matter what stage of life we find ourselves, we get stuck in this trap of comparison. We look at those around us and try to determine how well and where we fit. We want to know how we measure up.
In our heads we know that social media doesn’t tell the whole story, that nobody really has that perfect life. (And this is a message we need to be teaching our kids! Check out Screens and Teens for more tips on teaching your kids about technology.) We know no one’s life is really perfect so why do we still get stuck in this trap, believing the lie that we aren’t measuring up? And if WE get stuck in this trap HOW in the world do we teach our kids not to do it?
The first thing we have to do is to start with where this desire to fit in comes from anyway. These desires, to know where we belong, to know what we are good at, and what we were created for, are all God-given core needs. They’re needs that we are all born with. Dr. Kathy teaches about these core needs in Five to Thrive(and really in all of her books) and how each of those needs are so important to live a life that is full and thriving just as God designed.
Sadly, most of us seek to meet those needs in ways that God did not intend. One of those ways is in comparing ourselves to others. We look to the world and those around us to try to answer our core needs and the enemy of our soul loves when we do this!
Comparison causes envy, jealousy, strife, and insecurities which lead to anxiety and depression just to name a few. But also if we think about those people who we compare ourselves to, do we feel loving toward them or have a desire for kindness, gentleness, and patience? No, we want to have what they have and probably wouldn’t mind if they had less than we have. This is where the comparison cycle leads to and it is not God’s desire for his children. It is not a reflection of Christ or His love.
Instead of comparing ourselves to those around us we must start with using the right tool of measurement. We must start looking up! Creator God alone has the right to determine our purpose and He alone decides where we don’t measure up. We are His workmanship.
And this is great news! Because here’s a spoiler alert: We are created, down to the very hairs on our head, by a loving God, for a purpose, with a purpose! God Himself sent His son to pay the penalty for the sins we committed simply because He loves us. This is the best news!
When we are able to really believe this truth we can start to live loved and we are much less likely to get stuck in the trap of comparison. When our core needs are met in Christ alone we are free to stop seeking, comparing, and striving to be enough. Because in Christ we are more than enough!
And parents, we get to be on the front line of helping our kids find their identity, to help them learn healthy ways to get their core needs met! We get to remind them of the truth of who they are in Christ and to help them to discover their purpose for which God created them!
But more importantly, we can be a role model to our kids for what finding our identity in Christ looks like. We can show them that we don’t need to look around to see how we measure up, we only need to look to our Creator and He shows us who we are and what we were made for.
So how are you going to remind yourself of who you are? How are you going to teach your kids how to have their needs met in Christ alone? Spending time in scripture is a great way to do just that. Be a part of a Bible teaching church and surround yourself with godly friends who will remind you Whose you are.
Let’s stop looking around, stop comparing ourselves, and instead start looking up to find our value and then when we look around instead of comparing ourselves we can be ready to tell others how loved they are!
As a homeschool mom of four kids, Melissa Hannigan uses her background in child development and counseling to keep her family from going completely off the rails. Melissa discovered her passion for helping kids meet their fullest potential over 15 years ago. As a therapist, she has worked with children in head start, foster care, and in detention facilities to provide them the tools they need for success. Melissa has also served hundreds of young people through her local church. Her unique sense of humor, paired with a desire to make tough topics easy to talk about, makes her relatable to most parents struggling to keep their head above water in today’s cultural climate. Whether she’s serving the “Happy Hannigan’s” or the “Hot Mess Hannigan’s” (it depends on the day!) she does it alongside her best friend and partner in life, John. Melissa is an Associate with Celebrate Kids where she writes and speaks about a variety of topics.