How Is Comparison the Thief of Joy?

When we talk about the line “Comparison is the thief of joy,” we usually associate it with the 26th president of the United States of America, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. Roosevelt expressed it best about comparison when he exclaimed, “Comparison is the thief of joy” in one of his speeches.

Starting with the source of this well-known remark, it is apparent that Theodore Roosevelt had a positive outlook on life. Rarely do we see photographs of President Roosevelt without an ear-to-ear grin on his face, which is remarkable given the challenges he faced during his life.

However, the line “Comparison is the thief of joy” cannot be solely attributed to Roosevelt. Throughout history, even during the time of the Old Testament, many people have struggled with comparing themselves to others, and the Word of God addresses this issue regularly.

In fact, the dilemma is mentioned in the Bible through the stories of Rachel and Leah, Jacob and his siblings, and even Jesus’ disciples.

Before Christ intervened on the Road to Damascus, the Apostle Paul battled with comparison, and some comments spoken with others during his ministry offered insights on how to deal with comparison.

Let’s investigate what the Bible tells us about comparing ourselves with others and why we should avoid this because comparison is the thief of joy.

Comparison Bars Us from Seeing the Fruits of the Spirit

Paul emphasizes the necessity of recognizing the spiritual gifts given to us by God as distinct and distinct from one another in his epistle to the Roman church:

Then, having various gifts according to the grace given to us, let us use them; if prophecy, let us prophecy in proportion to our faith (Romans 12:6).

This verse clearly states that we use our spiritual gifts given to us by the Spirit. However, if we continue to compare ourselves with others, we bar ourselves from seeing the fruits that were given to us.

In another verse in 2 Corinthians 10:12, Paul specifically explained his interpretation of comparison as written

“Because we dare not classify or compare ourselves to others who praise themselves. They, on the other hand, are not sensible in judging themselves by themselves and comparing themselves to one another.” 

Similarly, Paul asks the Galatian church, “Or am I attempting to please men? I would not be a bondservant of Christ if I still pleased men” (Galatians 1:10).

These two verses state that it is foolish to compare ourselves with others and by doing so can lead to sadness. To answer this, we can read what Paul wrote to the church of Philippi as it is written in Philippians 4:11-12,

Not that I speak in terms of need, since I have learned to be content in whatever situation: I know how to be abased and how to flourish. I’ve learned to be both full and hungry, both abounding and in need, everywhere and everything.

These Bible passages demonstrate that the peace we all desire is attainable: freedom from comparison and contentment in whatever condition we find ourselves in since we are in this condition with God.

Comparison Bars Us from Contentment

Another reason why the comparison is the thief of our joy is that it tells us not to be content. Because we compare ourselves with what others have achieved like having a new car, a new house, and a so-called happy life, we become sad about our situations.

But there are strategies to stay away from these bad thoughts. First is that we have to establish a physical (or mental) list of the areas in our lives where we feel the most compelled to compare ourselves with others.

These can be marital status, career, financial resources, gifts, and so on. This way, we can now recognize which areas we seem to compare ourselves with others with.

After this, the second part is to remind ourselves that we are all sinners in need of Jesus’ saving grace daily and are the same after all.

Others may appear to have it all together on the outside, but they are just as vulnerable to comparison and other people’s perceptions as the rest of us.

And last, we have to pray and meditate every single day so that we eliminate our bad thoughts and focus ourselves on God alone. After all, it is written in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18,

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Comparison Bars Us from Happiness

Remember the moments when God answered your prayers or bestowed unexpected blessings on you. These events are meant to demonstrate that even amid adversity, God wants you to rejoice in His benefits and love.

However, if we compare ourselves with others, we bar ourselves from thinking of such blessings.

When you sense your delight is being overpowered by melancholy or hopelessness, do something you enjoy that provides you delight. Reading a book, calling/seeing a friend, or taking a walk in a beautiful environment can all take your mind off of your melancholy and provide you joy.

You can also contribute to someone else’s cause. Volunteer someplace or make it a mission to do random acts of kindness wherever you go in your day to provide joy to not just yourself but to those who don’t even know you.

Let us not forget the God who gave us the fruits of the spirit, which includes kindness and joy so that we may use it for ourselves and others, as it is written in Galatians 5:21-23,

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, therefore is no law.

What Theodore Roosevelt said is right and is even supported by the different verses of the Bible. Scripture confirms that comparison traps joy but if we decide to follow God’s discernment to escape comparison traps, we can keep joy in our hearts instead.

We can fight comparison by being aware of how we compare ourselves to others and reminding ourselves of the joy we have in our lives as a result of God’s blessings and opportunities to serve Him.

For further reading:

Is it Biblical to Find Happiness?

What Is the Difference Between Joy and Happiness?

What Does it Mean for Christians to ‘Delight Yourself in the Lord’ and How Do We Do It?

What Is Joy in Christianity?

Can There Be Joy in Suffering?

What Does it Mean to Be Content in All Circumstances?

Does God Know Our Thoughts?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/torwai


Glory Dy has been a content creator for more than 10 years. She lives in a quiet suburb with her family and four cats.

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