The Best Way To Keep Comparison From Stealing Your Holiday Spirit
My mom, sister, and I have an inside joke that started many years ago. During our high school years, my mom would take my sister and I to Oakbrook Mall to shop for Homecoming and Prom dresses. This outdoor mall is a classy place, full of high-end stores like Burberry, Lululemon, Free People, Anthropologie, etc. Whenever we shopped at this mall, we noticed everyone was beautiful and perfectly dressed. This was not the place to wear your sweats and rock a messy bun. After spending a day at Oakbrook, we would always joke on the ride home that we felt under-dressed, simple, and frumpy compared to the other shoppers.
That is how the term “Oakbrook Day” came about.
Have you ever had a day where no matter how hard you try, you just felt ugly and gross? Your hair is misbehaving, your skin is breaking out, and your clothes feel like you pulled them out of a dumpster? That, my friend, is what we would call an Oakbrook Day. We still call each other for sympathy when we are having a full-blown Oakbrook Day.
Nothing steals your joy more than comparison. Maybe it’s just me, but the comparison game is strong over the holiday season. Advertisements with women dressed in stylish outfits pressure you into spending just a tad more than what is within your comfort zone. Photographs on social media of friends making merry at lavish parties, or family gatherings that look straight out of a Pottery Barn magazine, bring on pangs of wistful dissatisfaction. Catalog pictures of homes perfectly decorated for the holidays tempt you to put your kid’s homemade ornaments on the back of the tree (or into a box for storage). You know what I’m talking about here…
I’ll be honest, every now and then, I play the comparison game with other people’s homes. I partially blame Chip and Joanna for this one. As much as I love watching this duo miraculously and effortlessly transform people’s homes on Fixer Upper, by the end of each episode, I notice discontent creep in over my own home. I start trying to persuade my husband that it’s totally doable to install a farmhouse sink, vault the ceiling in our bedroom, or throw a porch onto the front of our house. Seriously, how hard could these “minor” additions be?
Sometimes when we attend holiday parties, I find myself longing to have the space to entertain a big group of people in our home. Our house is tiny, but it is darn cute. It has a few things that give it character like its original hardwood floors, dutch door, and stone fireplace. It is also located on the most whimsical little street, conveniently located to a charming small town on a beautiful river.
When I begin to think about the things I love about our home, I almost instantly forget what I don’t like about it. Isn’t this true in every area of life? Our work? Our appearance? Our personality? Our relationships?
Comparison is like a disease that quickly spreads throughout our hearts. It starts subtly when we focus on that one little area in our life we wish were different. And, it completely blinds us to the many beautiful blessings God has entrusted into our care.
I have learned that the one antidote for comparison is gratitude. Gratitude is the rope that pulls us out of the sinking pit of comparison. It lifts us above our circumstances, changes our perspective, and helps us see life as a gift to enjoy. Gratitude connects us to our source of joy. Comparison connects us to our unhappiness.
Maybe you are in a season where you struggle to find things to be thankful for. I get that. Sometimes life throws some really tough things our way that make gratitude feel impossible. If you can relate, I would encourage you to read this verse from God’s Word:
“I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.”
- Psalm 116:17
Have your prayers of thanksgiving ever felt like a sacrifice? It can feel costly to momentarily let go of our sadness, anger, bitterness, or disappointment and choose instead to be thankful.
Maybe you really try to be grateful but keep slipping back into comparison. I have learned that gratitude is something we must fight for. It takes major intentionality to redirect negative and ungrateful thoughts into thoughts that are positive and thankful. It takes immense strength to choose to focus on what we do have, instead of what we don't. But the only way we can have a thankful heart is through God's help.
Whether the holidays find you in a season of joy or in sorrow, here are three ways to practice gratitude this week (If you are keeping up with Habits of the Heart, you will see some of these exercises in a few weeks.)
1. “This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” -Psalm 118:24
Set an alert on your phone or a note on your bedside table that asks, “What can I thank God for today?” If you are more of a verbal processor, ask your spouse or roommate this question at the end of the day. Whenever you are confronted with the question, take a moment to thank God for whatever gifts come to mind – another day of life, the little person holding your hand, clean water, sunshine, or a warm bed to crawl into at the end of the day. The more you look for these things, the more you’ll discover.
2. “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances.” -1 Thessalonians 5:16
Transform your mundane, messy, or frustrating moments into prayers of thanksgiving. For example, instead of being continually annoyed with the never-ending cycle of laundry, thank God for clothes to wear. If you loathe the task of meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking, thank God for having the financial ability to shop and eat well. You get the point. What complaints can you turn into praise today?
3. “Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.” – Psalm 103:2
All too often, we pray and pray and then forget to thank God when he answers us! Has God recently answered a persistent prayer of yours? Take a moment to remember how you received what you asked for and thank him for it!
I pray that the Spirit of God will help you transform your thoughts of comparison, complaints, and discontent into prayers of praise and thanksgiving. May you be able to fully appreciate and enjoy this holiday season with God and others.