“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
I believe this is truly a great quote, one that teaches an important lesson. It is often attributed to President Theodore Roosevelt, though I’ve not come across an authoritative source other than the internet (so it much be true, right?!).
Often this quote is understood in terms of external comparisons; but I think its valuable for internal comparisons as well. I’ll explain.
So often we do compare ourselves to others, what I call “external” comparisons. For example, we may look at someone else and think, wow, they have a bigger house, nicer car, fancier clothes, etc. Often this does little but breed discontent in our lives, making us wish for “more” instead of being grateful for all we do have. Certainly this type of external comparison can cause challenges.
But I think “internal” comparisons are similarly bad. By internal, I mean something like this: just recently, I had what was the best run I have ever had. Ever. It was awesome. I really enjoy trail running, and I was able to run my favorite trail in the area. It was cool, and rainy. The trail was muddy, and not another person in sight. I ran 5 miles with what felt like little effort. It was just an awesome all around run.
Then two days later, I went for another trail run. This time it was a trail closer to my house, which I don’t like nearly as much. Running was much more laborious; not nearly as effortless feeling as the previous run. I only managed 3.5 miles. It just wasn’t as good a run.
But then I got to thinking, perhaps I wasn’t doing the second run, or myself, justice by comparing it to the first run.
After all, I have definitely come to learn that not all runs are great. They just aren’t. Some days you feel better than others; some days you’re more tired. Some days it’s more miles; some days its less. Some faster, some slower. Preferred places to run, and paths that simply suffice.
And so what I’ve learned is that by comparing them, it takes away from the not-great runs. But why should it? Shouldn’t I be thankful that I was able to get out and run today? Grateful that I have the leisure time to do so in the first place? Grateful that I have a park just a few minutes from home where I can run? Grateful that I am healthy enough to run 3.5 miles? Grateful that I could enjoy being outdoors, the trees, the woods, the breeze, the sun and clouds? Grateful to be in God’s creation?
Yes. Yes, I should be grateful for all these things. I should learn to take the great runs, and be thankful for them. But I should also take the not-so-great runs, and learn to be thankful, and content with them as well, even though they weren’t as good as others. No matter.
Yes, I believe that comparison is the thief of joy. For if I were to have dwelt on the comparison of the great run versus the not-so-great run, I wouldn’t have enjoyed not-so-great run. I wouldn’t have been nearly as thankful for it. And I wouldn’t have been content. This type of internal comparison would have stolen the joy found in having a run that was just ok.
Comparison is the thief of joy. So much of our lives is simply learning to accept our present circumstances, be content in them, and focus on God’s joy instead of external realities.
Comparison is the thief of joy.