Comparison can only become an ally when we use it to compare ourselves to the right standard and if we do so for the right reason. It can only become an ally when we compare ourselves to Jesus out of a longing to be more like him. The way to grow in holiness is not to compare ourselves to other people, but to compare ourselves to the Savior.
Comparison comes as naturally to us as eating, breathing, laughing, weeping. From our youngest days we begin to compare ourselves to others and quickly find the old adage to be true: Comparison is the enemy of joy. Though we so readily compare ourselves with others, we discover that this fosters a deep unhappiness. What promises joy actually delivers misery.
The reason is that comparison is intrinsically competitive, so that we don’t really want to be merely pretty, but prettier than the other person; we don’t really want to be merely wealthy, but wealthier than he is; we don’t really want to be merely successful, but more successful than the other person. No follower count is high enough until it is higher than hers, no church big enough until it is bigger than his. If we fail to get the things our hearts desire we grow in envy, but if we do get them we grow in pride. Our comparison is never rewarded with contentment.
Even in our Christian lives we can be prone to comparison. We can judge ourselves righteous by comparing ourselves to others’ depravity, we can judge ourselves faithful by comparing ourselves to others’ sinfulness, we can judge ourselves committed by comparing ourselves to others’ apathy. We can become like the Pharisee Jesus introduced in a parable—the one who went to the temple to pray and said, “I thank you, God, that I am not like other men”—especially like that traitorous tax collector who stood nearby.