My oldest had to do a project for school that was due yesterday. The assignment was to build a type of house that a Native American population lived in. She chose an igloo. The directions were to build the shelter with things you had at home, so we used a plastic cup, some sugar cubes and some salt for snow.
My daughter worked hard on her project. In the end it was a bit lopsided, but she was proud of it -- until she took it to school. I helped her carry it in, and when we saw the other projects on the table, my heart sank. There were several projects that took up nearly half a table, complete with people, animals, streams and ladders. Adobe houses with perfectly cut windows and doors and igloos with removable roofs so you could see the scene inside.
My daughter worked hard on her project. She created it with a minimum of help from me. It met all the criteria of the assignment. And she was happy with it -- until she started comparing it to other projects.
Too often, we let our joy in something we've done or how we're made be sucked away by comparing ourselves to others. You know you've done it. How many times have you walked into a room feeling pretty good about how you look, only to immediately find someone who is skinnier or who has better-looking hair? How often have you felt good about the things you've accomplished in your day, only to talk to your super mom neighbor and discover that she did everything you did and she baked cookies for her kids for snack and landscaped her yard at the same time?
Comparison always has the same result -- it either makes us feel bad about ourselves or it makes someone else feel bad about themselves. It serves no other purpose.
Bullies have comparison down to an art form. They generally choose a child to bully whom they think has it better than they do. The bullying is a way to keep the child being the bully from feeling bad about herself when she compares herself to others.
God doesn't want us to compare ourselves to others. He created each one of us with our own talents. He gave each one of us our own gifts. If we were all the same, we couldn't be effective in sharing His love with others. If we were all the same, all of our art would look the same, all of our music would sound the same and all of our books would be about the same stuff. We'd all see the world in the same way, and there would be no room for creativity.
In 1 Corinthians 12:18-19, Paul says "But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be?" God made each one of us and each one of our kids "just as He wanted them to be." When we compare ourselves to others, we are essentially telling God we don't think He did a good job making us -- we think He made a mistake.
When our kids succumb to the urge to compare themselves to others -- and end up feeling bad as a result -- we need to step in and remind them that God doesn't compare us to others.
- When your kids go from feeling good about something they have done to feeling bad about it because someone else's is "better," ask your child if they did their best on whatever activity or project has them feeling inadequate. Explain that God made some people more artistic, more athletic, or better at school than others. But He made those people who aren't all those things better at something else. Remind your child that as long as they do their best, they make both you and God happy.
- When your child is feeling down because they are comparing themselves to others, give them two bowls of different-flavored ice cream that they like equally. Ask them which ice cream is better. Explain that people are like ice cream. We come in many flavors. None of those flavors is better than the other -- they're all good. But they're all different. God made us all different because He needs us each to play a role in His plan.
- Show your child how to make candy in a mold. Explain that God made each of us, like we're making the candy. The difference is that when God made each of us, He used a different mold for each person. No two people are exactly alike. When we compare ourselves to others, the comparison isn't fair because the mold that made us isn't the same.
Comparing ourselves to others is one of the biggest self-esteem robbers. If we can help our kids break the cycle of comparison, we can help them understand their intrinsic value to God.
When we stop comparing ourselves to others, we can be ourselves -- just like God made us to be.