I have a view of comparison that seems kind of radical based on what I see around me. But given that my biggest struggle in life is with envy, I have tested my position many times over.
I believe that comparing ourselves to others is always a mistake.
It’s probably pretty clear that seeing someone’s Facebook-perfect life and wondering why we don’t have what they have is harmful. So is comparing our spiritual progress to others.
The first problem being that you don’t really know the inner truth of that other person’s life.
But we get taught to compare ourselves and it is reinforced strongly everyday. How many times has someone said to you “Be grateful, it could be worse”? And then they point out something they think of as worse. Or “You shouldn’t complain because look at this war veteran who lost his legs”?
It’s insidious, because this sounds like positive life advice, designed to make you see the good and blessings in your life. But you know what else it does? It forces you to put yourself into a ranking. I feel good because I’m better than X person. Once you are in that ranking, then you also notice those who are above you in the line. I’m better than X, but Y is doing so much better than me! And then you don’t feel so grateful anymore.
(Also, this assumes that we know the inner life of someone else. It is super insulting to assume that someone who has a disability is more unhappy or has a worse life than you!)
I think we should be grateful for our blessings in life for their own merits, not because they are better or worse than the blessings in someone else’s life.
This seems to be a topic that people are thinking about these days.
- Cosmo magazine has an article about friend envy (they’re calling it friendvy)
- A Practical Wedding discusses the paradigm of scarcity v.s. plenty
If we aren’t checking in with our neighbors (keeping up with the Jonses, as the American expression goes), how will we know how we’re doing in life? Well, life may be a game but it isn’t a board game with one winner and billions of losers. Success has nothing to do with how much more we have than someone else.
I measure my success in my happiness. Do I feel content, secure, and happy? If not, what can I shift in my life to get back to that? Doesn’t require the input of anyone else’s life statistics!
(This blog says that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar believes the measure of success if how many smiles you have! http://www.hindu-blog.com/2013/06/the-sign-of-success-is-smile-sri-sri.html Sounds pretty similar to my thought!)