There’s a scene from an old sitcom, and it plays something like this: a teenage boy walks into the kitchen and asks his mom, “What’s for dinner?” After she tells her son she’s lovingly made his favorite, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, the boy whines, “Aww, meatloaf? I just came from Johnny’s house and his dad’s grilling steaks!” Who’s to be pitied more? The poor mom who’s slaved over the hot stove trying to please her family — or her ungrateful son, who’s got the meatloaf blues, a symptom of “the comparison complaint”?
Unfortunately, we all periodically suffer from this complaint. It’s a common malady of the human race, but there’s a cure. Just stop! The kid in the aforementioned sitcom ought to have been happy that his mom cooked his dinner to start with — let alone made his favorite — and we would all do well to stop comparing what we have with what someone else has. Life is more enjoyable when we’re grateful for what God has provided us. And, personally, we LOVE meatloaf, with mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy! Of course, we serve a pretty mean meatloaf at our house!
Still, we tend to get caught up in comparing, and when we do, we inevitably reach the same conclusion: there’s always something better than what we have. The neighbors are having steak and we’re stuck with meatloaf! Or, we’re having meatloaf but the neighbors are having meatloaf with gravy! Yes, the dinner is always more delicious on the other side of the fence — or is that grass? After God led His people out of bondage from Egypt, He daily provided them with a perfect food called MANNA! Manna was “a flaky substance” that “tasted like honey wafers.” (Exodus 16:14,31 NLT) The Israelites collected the manna each morning, and we can imagine it was a little like Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. And to quote Tony the Tiger, “They’re grr-reat!!”
But God’s people started comparing, as we all tend to do, and suddenly they were “homesick” for the foods they ate when they were slaves! Seriously? Yeah, the “comparison complaint” really is a sickness; and we’ll never truly enjoy life if we’re always “sick” about what we could have, but don’t have. How can we enjoy a delicious cool glass of freshly squeezed orange juice if we start contemplating what else we might have had? Remember the TV commercial for vegetable juice? The guy suddenly stops sipping his OJ, slaps his forehead, and cries, “Wow, I coulda had a V-8!” Don’t fall prey to the comparison complaint. Enjoy the moment. “This is the day [or food, or home, or opportunity] the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24 NLT)
Another symptom of the comparison complaint manifests when we start comparing ourselves to others. Trust us on this one: no matter how beautiful or talented you are, how much money you make, or how big your home is, there will always be someone somewhere who’s just a little prettier, more gifted, more prosperous, more whatever. So … since these things are all relative to begin with, then why compare — and compete? Catch the comparison complaint and you’ll probably also come down with “inferiority fever” followed by “insecurity sickness”!
On the other hand, there will always be those who don’t seem to measure up to you and your standards. Should you take what God has blessed you with as a reason for pride? If you do, then you’re suffering from the vanity virus.
We mentioned we serve a mean meatloaf. We have a friend who started comparing her cooking skills to Wilma’s; and she felt she came up short. As a result, she was reluctant to have us over for dinner. Sad and unnecessary! We all have different gifts and abilities, and there’s no point in comparing. When we do, nothing good ever comes out of it; instead, we miss out on the joy of life. But our friend was mature enough to confess she was feeling a little inferior in the kitchen. We told her not to worry: we’re not into comparing and competing. And we’re grateful whether we’re served pheasant under glass or a plain pizza. Then we reminded her just how talented she was in areas that remain a complete mystery to us.
Our friend relaxed, realized what’s most important, and then had us over for a take-out pizza. And we’re not sure why, but … apparently her fellowship added a lot of extra flavor to the food, because it was one of the best pizzas we’d ever had! Get the lesson here? Please don’t catch the comparison complaint. At first it just makes you sick, but later it can kill your joy. “I ask you not to think of yourselves more highly than you should. Instead, your thoughts should lead you to use good judgment based on what God has given each of you as believers.” (Romans 12:3 GOD’S WORD)
Remember the symptoms: the meatloaf blues, inferiority fever, insecurity sickness or vanity virus. Nip them in the bud before you get an incurable case of the comparison complaint.