It happens all too easy. What started out as a fun time with a friend turns into a private, internal game of "Let's compare." You're no longer thinking of your friend, you're thinking about how you're falling short. Whether it be your appearance, weight, home-decorating skills, sense of humor...need I go on?
We all have our lists, those things that we don't like about ourselves, those things that we see in others and wish we could have.
Is comparison ever good?
Not all comparison is bad. Sometimes we see a positive trait in another person and it inspires us. In Titus 2:3-5, part of the way that older women are to instruct the younger women is to be a godly example. We can't emulate the good behavior we see in others unless we think about how we are different. That requires comparison.
And though this isn't quite as fun, comparison convicts. If I'm going through a season of negativity and grumbling, seeing others serve the church and their families with joy can show me how far afield I've gotten. I'm convicted about my bad attitude and reminded to repent of my sin.
When comparison goes bad
More often than not, though, comparing ourselves with others can drive us to despair. Our focus is not on how to serve God better in the place he has put us, our focus is on wanting what someone else has. We don't want to glorify God with our gifts, we want the same gifts as someone else.
So how can we tell the difference?
I don't think there's an easy answer to this. Our hearts are tricky (Jeremiah 17:9). Do we really want to be different in order to bring more glory to God, or do we just want more glory for ourselves? If our friend is admired and celebrated for a gift or skill, perhaps we want to be admired and celebrated, too.
All we can do is return the focus where it belongs--on Christ. All of our gifts and abilities were given by him for the purpose of bringing him glory. We may not be as awesome as our friend, but we are God's handiwork. (Ephesians 2:10)
A heart full of praise for God will have no room for self-loathing, and a heart focused on glorifying the Lord wherever she is will not begrudge the gifts of another.