If you are a parent, you’ve most likely heard your kids utter the words, “It’s not fair”. That sinful nature comes out without a thought as if it is an automatic response ingrained in their being. After all, so much of what we learn about ourselves and others is a result of looking at what others say and do. It is natural to compare.
Our culture encourages comparison. Watch commercials and you know that the item they are touting is by far the best. In the competitive world of education our kids understand that being the smartest or the best at something get’s them the prize of recognition, status, or special treatment. Even in the world of work we understand that competition will make or break a career or a company.
So how do we as parents “turn off” that voice that says our kids aren’t stacking up to the neighbor’s kid? Or stop our kids from looking at what their friends “have” expecting the same in return? And are we fostering that competitive edge that forces our kids to look side-to-side comparing themselves to others?
A couple of years ago I spent the week visiting with my 82 year old mother. As we talked and reminisced about the past, she would share stories about how she made sure we were all treated “equally”. It was important to her that all six of us felt as if we were the same–even as a blended family. She didn’t want any of us to compare our situation to that of our siblings and feel slighted in any way.
As I thought about my mother’s strategy of making sure we were all given “the same”, it occurred to me that for over five decades my mother had been trying to even the score. As a parent that feels like such a burden to carry.
As kids or adults, the scales can’t always be in balance. God didn’t create any of us to be the same or experience the same situations.
When we compare, one becomes the winner and the other the loser. Or as I’ve heard my kids say, “Even if you come in second, it means you are the first loser.” And if we take my mother’s strategy and are constantly trying to level the playing field, then kids don’t have a true sense of reality as they enter the adult world.
As I was thinking about the problem with comparison, I ran across this quote by Theodore Roosevelt:
Comparison is the thief of joy
Wow. As parents we need to encourage our kids to go for the prize that God has set for them. That’s where the real joy comes from. God doesn’t give all of us the same calling. He created each of us uniquely different. I want my kids to know that their competition is with themselves–not others.
My kids grew up swimming on a competitive team. The staff philosophy was simple, “Life Time Best”. “All I want from you”, Ms. Suzie would say at the beginning of each race, “is an LTB–Life Time Best. Your job is to go for the wall.”
Isn’t that what we want for each of our kids–their Life Time Best? With each project, with each exam, with each sport, or with each activity–just strive to do a little better this time than you did the last.
If our competition is with ourselves, and we teach our kids to compete with themselves, we’ll resist the temptation to compare setting our kids and ourselves up for feeling “less than” or “more than” those whom we are called to love. We’ll be teaching them that they can have real joy.
Each of you must examine your own actions. Then you can be proud of your own accomplishments without comparing yourself to others. Assume your own responsibility.
Dare you to think about the message you might be sending to your kids about comparing ourselves to others. Instead, teach them that real joy comes from striving toward the goal that God has set within us to be what He wants us to be.
“Let go…and Let God”,