When Comparison Helps: Part 2, 3 Steps to Positive Comparisons

When Comparison Helps: Part 2, 3 Steps to Positive Comparisons September 10, 2021

Comparison helps when we try to learn from others. When a gallery called for artwork based on the work of a famous artist, I did this painting based on a painting by Mary Cassatt. I was working from photos. I replaced her little girl with my grandson and her dog with his cat. “Eleazar in the Blue Armchair,” by Susan E. Brooks, after Cassatt.
Years later I saw the original, and there was no comparison, but I learned how I can improve my work. The artwork above is “Little Girl in a Blue Armchair” by Mary Cassatt at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

Comparison, when it brings about discouragement and envy, can be harmful. On the other hand, we can learn from it. When we view the successes of others in a positive way, comparison helps.

1. Rejoice With the Successful

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. —Romans 12:15

Though many of us are tempted to be envious, instead, let’s rejoice with those who succeed. Look at it this way. If they can do it, you can too. And when you have an accomplishment, don’t you want your friends to be happy for you? Let’ s treat others as we want to be treated. You know—the Golden Rule.

If I am all torn up over someone’s accomplishments, maybe I can learn from those feelings. Follow the trail of resentment back to the source. Perhaps I need to change my own circumstances for the better. I may need to change jobs or end an unhealthy relationship. Do I need to check into taking classes or book a much-needed vacation? Rejoice with your friends, and if you can’t, start praying about why you’re jealous. Jealousy can point us to our deep desires and needs. Let God heal and help you with those.

2. Learning From Comparison

What can you learn from the triumphs of others? How did they do it? Find out how they have accomplished something you would love to do. Back when I was an art student, I recall an older man who joined our classes. He marketed his own artwork in ways I was too timid to consider. I envied his sales, but his artwork did not strike me as superior to mine. One day he said to me, “You’re more talented than I am, but you need to learn to market your work.” Let the success of others show you where you’re lacking and take steps to improve.

When I have the chance, I like to compare my artwork to that of artists I admire. Recently, I visited the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. I soaked in the beauty of original art I had only seen in photos. The colors in the impressionists’ paintings popped in vivid pinks and blues. The textures worked perfectly. I may never attain the level of the masters, but comparing my work with theirs is inspiring. Comparison helps when learning is the goal.

3. Remember Their Humanity

Find a beautiful piece of art. If you fall in love with Van Gogh or Matisse or John Oliver Killens, or if you fall love with the music of Coltrane, the music of Aretha Franklin, or the music of Chopin – find some beautiful art and admire it, and realize that that was created by human beings just like you, no more human, no less.

Maya Angelou

I am awed as much as anyone by the work of famous artists, but they are human, just like you and me. This kind of comparison can give us hope. What has been done by other humans can be done again by humans like us. Okay, maybe not exactly like me at this moment. I’d need to make a few changes in my lifestyle to accomplish what the masters did. And maybe I don’t have what it takes, but another human could do all that and more. And by healthy comparison, we can learn to change for the better. Let’s imitate the divine Master and “rejoice with those who rejoice.”


Any suggestions on dealing with comparisons? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


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