By Joy Ballard
Are you stuck in the trap of comparison? This practical guide will provide lighthearted, time-tested advice to save you from keeping up with the Joneses.
Forget the Joneses: First Things First
Disclaimer: nothing will change unless you want it to change. And, change often requires sacrifice.
Potential side effects (read quickly): less stuff, less spending, occasional loss of superficial friendships, decrease in anxiety and depression, increased levels of calm and contentment, discovery of unique taste and individual passions.
Phew! Moving on…
Forget the Joneses in Five (Not So Easy) Steps
- Close the window shades.
Kitchen, living room, Instagram, Pinterest… Delete every source of temptation to compare. It’s a detox for the soul.
You will find yourself reaching for your phone only to discover nothing to do on it… but wait, there’s that real estate app you forgot about! Ooh, look at that property…. STOP! Delete.
Why so aggressive? To break an addiction, desperate measures are necessary. Taking a total break will restore clarity of mind to decide at a later time whether they can be allowed back into your life.
- Shoo the birds away.
“You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” – Martin Luther
In other words: admire what you see and move on. Do not search online to gasp at how much they spent on it. Do not gawk at their property on Zillow. Do not check the mirror to confirm you aren’t as skinny as you-know-who. Let. It. Go.
But what if they’re right about the housing market and we should move too? Nope. But what if I miss out on that deal? Nope. Our kitchen could use an update… Nope.
Making decisions based on comparison requires an automatic answer: no. Don’t give in to the pressure of immediate change to keep up with someone. Do you have a God who orchestrates time and space and everything you need? Okay, then.
- Start a gratitude workout routine.
Yes, workout. Whether you regularly hit the gym or chase toddlers all day, it’s when your legs get shaky and your lungs hurt that your body gets stronger.
Writing a daily gratitude list is not the same as forcing yourself to be thankful when comparison is staring you in the face.
The moment you feel dragged down by thoughts of comparison, STOP and literally fill a page with gratitude: Thanks, God, for this pen. Thanks for the age of indoor plumbing. Thanks for (awkward pause)… the sun.
It’s a painful start, but soon your pen will flow as the lungs of your soul breathe deeply the fresh air of gratitude.
- Develop a reading habit.
Read about people in different time periods.
Not a reader? That’s not a valid excuse anymore, by the way, because of audiobooks.
No time? Um, remember all the hours you used to spend scrolling on social media and online shopping? You have time.
From Laura Ingalls to Elisabeth Elliot, Eleanor Roosevelt to Mother Teresa… Biographies and historical fiction abound.
Not only is it fun to allow your busy self the time to enjoy a good story, but it challenges your perspective on life and reduces the temptation to compare.
- Delight in the ordinary.
After expanding your perspective through stories of people who didn’t follow the Joneses, you can appreciate your own life in new ways.
The satisfying pour of coffee into your favorite mug. The well-worn comfy corner of your sofa. The squeak on the floor that you know just how to step around. The cowlicks, the giggles, the scrunched up whiny faces of those little humans with whom you live. The scratchy stubble and the cologne scent of the man you love.
All the quirky, unique and wonderful details of your life are what weave a story worth living. The Joneses can have their brand name clothing and immaculate house. This is us, ordinary and delightful.
The temptation to compare will never cease. Even if you achieve it all, there will be something else out of reach. But, using these steps to create new habits in your life will lead to what Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”
Wife Step: Delete apps you know are a comparison trap and start reading a book.
Joy was born and raised in a multicultural, bilingual family in the country of Mexico. Although she loves a good taco, her love for a Minnesota guy won out. 14 years of marriage, 4 kids and many geographical locations later, they now reside in Indiana where her husband is completing a doctoral program. Together they love helping couples discover the incredible adventure marriage was intended to be. They have led many marriage small groups, ministries and retreats, but their favorite way to connect with other couples is by simply sharing life together. When not deep in the throes of homeschooling and parenting, Joy enjoys devouring books, stringing words together, dabbling in watercolor, and sipping coffee with friends. Photo credit: Woodford Sisters Photography