I went to middle school back-to-school night last night. I met all my daughter’s teachers. I learned all about the things she’ll be doing this year, and I saw a lot of other parents.
And I found myself doing it again — comparing our family to other people’s. For whatever reason, it seems we are hardwired to compare ourselves to others. We compare how “successful” our kids are. We compare how we look to how other people look. We compare how much we have it together to how much other moms seem to have it together. Any time we walk into a room full of people, it seems we compare ourselves to the other people in that room.
The problem with comparison is that it only leads to discontent. It makes us unhappy with ourselves, with our kids, with our possessions and even with our faith. When we compare ourselves to others, we almost always find our own shortcomings. Learning from someone else who has walked in our shoes is not a bad thing. Comparing our every move and decision to someone else’s is.
How many of us when our kids were babies compared their development to the development of our friend’s baby and found our child wanting? Our younger daughter didn’t walk until she was 16 months old. (I’m pretty sure she was capable but chose not to because she wanted us to carry her, but that’s a story for another day.) Every time I saw a baby her age that was walking, I would wonder if there was something wrong with my child.
When my older daughter came home from school with a poor grade on her homework assignment the other day, one of my first questions was “How did everyone else do?”
When we play the game of comparison, though, we lose sight of the fact that our families are unique. We forget that God made our kids to walk their own path, not the path of someone else. We become blind to the fact that each of our kids is fearfully and wonderfully made by God to fulfill a special purpose in His plan.
When we do that, we may lead our kids to a path God never intended for them. When we compare our kids and ourselves to others, we may find ourselves striving to reach a goal God never intended for us to obtain. Comparison takes our eyes off of God and puts them squarely on ourselves. We begin to try to become something that we were never created to be.
It’s OK for your family to make choices that don’t match everyone else’s. God may have called your family to a different goal, a different purpose. We don’t have to spend our time comparing our family’s choices to anyone else’s choices. All we have to do is compare our choices to what God is telling us. We don’t have to live in the trap of discontentment created by comparing ourselves to other people. We can find our contentment in following God’s plan.
The more we compare ourselves to others, the more we teach our kids to compare themselves to others. The more choices we make based on what others are doing, the more we teach our kids to do the same.
If we want to raise kids who are seeking to follow God’s plan for their lives, then we have to lead by example. We have to stop comparing ourselves to others and start comparing ourselves to the standard of obedience to God’s plan.