January 24, 2023
When Comparison Invites Us Into Compassion
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"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts ..." Colossians 3:12 (ESV)
The COVID-19 pandemic forced many of us into new routines we would have never chosen for ourselves and our families.
It pushed us into isolation, traumatizing us with fear while we navigated something new and unknown and grappled with the loss of jobs, friends or family members to the virus.
It is a time no one would ever choose to relive.
During the depths of that season, I found myself experiencing the same isolation and loneliness many felt. But as I scrolled through social media feeds filled with friends working from home and doing all the quarantine activities and home projects - while I still commuted to the hospital daily for my job - I allowed comparison to prevail.
All I could see was the isolation and loneliness I felt, but in reality this was a common experience for nearly everyone during that season, regardless of what their daily norm looked like.
In a moment of acute loneliness as I scrolled, I realized comparison was only compounding that feeling. Why?
Because comparison points out what is different.
While we tend to make comparison out to be something terrible, it's not inherently bad. Comparing the lifestyle choices and eating habits we once had to a new routine of exercise and balanced nutrition helps us see the progress and transformation we've made. Comparing revisions and suggested changes to the project we submitted enables us to see areas for improvement.
Comparison doesn't have to be an ugly pit or a despairing cycle we fall into; it can actually lead us to greater awareness and growth.
It can become negative when we start comparing our lives to someone else's and focusing on what makes us different. When we concentrate on these differences, it creates chasms in relationships and isolates us. But compassion pulls us toward common ground and propels us into connection and communion with one another.
Compassion begins by seeing how we are the same. Compassion closes the gap of isolation, bringing us together over similarities in our stories.
And that is precisely what Christ modeled for us by coming to earth in the form of a man to be acquainted with our sorrows and to understand the human experience. The compassion He put on when He came to earth is also what we are called to in Colossians 3:12, which instructs us: "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts ..."
As believers in Christ, we are called to be compassionate to one another just as Christ is compassionate toward us.
We tend to view our situation and circumstance as unique, or in my case, I saw loneliness as something only I was experiencing. While comparing my life to everyone else's, I missed sharing with others the loneliness, fear and isolation of that season. We all felt the burden, even if it looked different for each of us. Instead of deepening the separation I felt, that shared experience could have been a common ground for connection through compassion.
Next time you are tempted to compare your situation with someone else's, remind yourself to view the situation with compassion and look for the common ground. May comparison not be a dividing factor among us as children of God, but through compassion, may we extend and experience the love and connection we were all created for.
Heavenly Father, whenever comparison creeps in, may I be quick to clothe myself in compassion instead of pride or despair, which brings isolation. Help me to see others as You see them, holy and beloved, and help me to see myself that way too. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
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For tips on how to have compassion for others with help from the Enneagram, check out Meredith Boggs' new book, The Journey Home: A Biblical Guide to Using the Enneagram to Deepen Your Faith and Relationships.
When you've experienced something devastating, it's easy to question if you're on your way to healing: Is it normal to feel this way? How do I stop hurting? Is this going to be painful forever? Is it really possible to move forward after we've experienced significant trauma? We address all of these questions and more with our episodes of Therapy & Theology on YouTube. With theological research and therapeutic insight, Lysa TerKeurst, Dr. Joel Muddamalle and licensed counselor Jim Cress will help you understand what you’ve experienced so you can process your pain in a healthy way and take steps toward healing today. Click here to watch now!
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FOR DEEPER STUDY
Hebrews 4:15, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet he did not sin." (NIV)
Reflect on a relationship (or relationships) in your life where comparison is robbing you of connection. How might you approach this person with Christlike compassion? Share with us in the comments!
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