THERE is one comparison with others we should be making, for our gratitude, to grow in compassion, to train ourselves to see more like God, for our own good. And ultimately for others’ good too.
Have you noticed what happens when you compare yourself with those doing better than you? It has likely made you feel empty and envious. It has probably challenged your self-confidence and self-concept. It has made you less grateful for your life and what you have than you ought to feel.
Have you ever tried comparing with others in the opposite direction? — to compare with those down on their luck compared with you; those less fortunate; those who were born in and live in less materially rich regions of the world; those who have suffered disease and loss and addiction in their families.
When we compare with others we see doing better than us, we end up disappointed. When we compare ourselves with more favourable seasons of past, we end up gloomy. But when we compare with others who aren’t doing so well, we begin to feel two things: grateful for what we have, and we feel empathy for what they don’t have. We certainly shouldn’t feel superior, for the fortunes of life are fickle.
Two opportunities present for us as our awareness of our comparative blessedness increases:
1. Our gratitude blossoms into joy, because the more we engage in this way of seeing, the more we see the little things we have that others don’t. We enjoy these things more, and we even consider how we might spread the enjoyment we experience to others.
2. With empathy our character grows in compassion. We feel genuine sadness for what others don’t have, and we may begin to pray for them, and even provide for them, which we understand we need to do in dignifying ways.
Compare not with those who seem better off, but with those who are worse off.
Compare with those doing better and we feel envious, but compare with those undergoing hardship and we feel empathy.