The Comparison Disease

This past Sunday, the pastor at my church had a very engaging sermon about what he calls “The Comparison Disease.” We all know it. We all suffer from it to some extent, even if we don’t know it.

Let’s take Facebook. I don’t want to complain about Facebook…I LOVE Facebook and am completely addicted. But really, think about how some posts stir up The Comparison Disease in all of us.

We’ve all seen posts like this in your newsfeed.

  • “So proud of my girl.  Honor roll, captain of the team, and now accepted to her top three colleges.”
  • Caption on a photo of luxurious poolside scene:  “Flashback to that time we all went to Aruba!”
  • Caption on a photo of a 10-year old wearing designer boots and carrying a cell phone worth a few hundred dollars:  “Rockin’ middle school!”

Loosely, these posts translate to: “My <vacation, kids, life> is better than yours.” Okay, we don’t really say it that explicitly, and we don’t even mean to impress our “friends” when we make these kinds of posts.

Yes, we should be terribly proud of our smart, athletic, and heavily-recruited child. We should have fond memories of vacations with friends, and don’t we all want our child to be the “cool kid” at school?

Here are the questions I really want to ask on some of these posts:

  • How much have you invested in continuing your superstar’s future in college?
  • Are you fully funding your retirement so you can continue to travel?
  • How much did that trip increase your credit card balance?
  • And really, does a 10 year old need a cell phone and its monthly bills that probably add up to more than $1000 each year?

But that means I’m caught up in The Comparison Disease, too, right? I’m assuming that my children (also smart and adorable, by the way) are just as fabulous as yours, maybe even better. And I’m comparing my retirement plans and 529 balances against what I perceive to be yours, based on the life that I perceive you are living, thanks to your posts.

In an age where it’s so easy to share information (and lifestyles and vacations and perceptions) with each other, it’s hard not to do. I do get very judgmental when I see posts asking me to contribute to your child’s school trip fund (“This experience will be so important for Johnny, and will shape his world views for years to come…”) Yes, I’m sure the trip will, but don’t tell me your family doesn’t have the money to send him and then post pics from your big family vacation three weeks later!

Sigh. There it is again. The Comparison Disease. I’m not sure there’s a cure, other than being content with your own position in life. And we all know how easy that is, right?

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