Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.Galatians 1:10
I think we all struggle with comparison to some degree. I think everyone at some point in their life has compared their body, grades, talent, or relationship status to someone else’s. Personally, I compared myself a lot in dance. For most of my life, I compared myself to other dancers, which really damaged how I viewed myself until I learned to love myself as a dancer. Some comparisons are more visible than others. We’re more aware of issues like body image, and popularity, but have you ever heard of spiritual comparison?
Spiritual comparison involves comparing your own faith journey with someone else’s. You might look at someone else’s faith life and want what they have. Someone else might have more time to pray, be more involved in the Mass or in the parish community, receive the sacraments more often, or be closer to God in general. You could look up to this person and strive to be like them, or you could let yourself feel discouraged by looking at this person. You might look at them and think that you’re a bad Catholic or God doesn’t love you as much, although this isn’t the case.
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It’s important to remember that no one is perfect. It might appear that this person has a more fruitful prayer life, but they could be struggling with something you’re not aware of. It’s easy to think that the girls who always wear pretty skirts, always carry a rosary and a leather Bible, and pray a holy hour in the Adoration chapel every other day are the perfect Catholic, but you don’t always see what’s going on beneath the surface. This is why spiritual comparison can be dangerous.
I used to look at others like this and think that I needed to mimic them to a T to be a great Catholic. However, I was so busy with classes, meetings, and rehearsals that I didn’t have much time to pray or go to Mass. When I couldn’t do all of “the things,” as I like to call them, it made me depressed and bitter because I convinced myself that God didn’t love me as much as he loves his other daughters. Throughout college, I struggled with spiritual comparison a lot. It was a beast that was eating me alive, but learning its name helped me to tame it. When I realized what I was struggling with, I started looking for help. Unfortunately, help didn’t come right away.
For a long time, I was told by others and I told myself that I just needed to be better. I just needed to go to Mass and Confession more often, make more time to pray, and worry about school less. These things were easier said than done, so of course when I failed, I only grew more frustrated. I believed that I had to meet certain criteria to be a good Catholic, and the environment that I was in affirmed that falsehood.
Eventually, a few women who I trust a lot convinced me that this wasn’t the case. The reminded me of the simple truth that God loves me no matter what. In a society that tells us that our worth lies in our accomplishments or how hard we work, our Heavenly Father loves us unconditionally. We don’t have to do anything to earn his love. The things that we do as Catholics, like going to daily Mass, praying the rosary every day, and going to Confession regularly, help us to love God more. Doing the things strengthens our relationship with God and helps us to grow closer to him. We don’t do the things because we want God to love us more; we do them because we want to love God more. Finally, I learned that it’s better to do the things that you can with love than to try to do more than you’re able. If you only have 30 minutes to pray, don’t try to pray a holy hour. If you can’t go to daily Mass every day of the week, go to one or two Masses. We know that it’s best to start small and work our way up, and our faith life is no exception. The Lord delights in the little things we do with great love, so no matter what you’re doing to improve your relationship with him, do them out of love.
If you’re not as close to God someone else is, it’s okay. Everyone’s faith journey is different, so it’s better to focus on your own instead of comparing your’s to someone else’s. Keep pursuing the Lord and following Christ in all things. If you’re struggling, ask him for the grace to fix your eyes on him and remember that you’re his beloved child. If you’re trying to overcome spiritual comparison, know that you’re not alone, and know that I’m praying for you.
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