Yes, I stole that title; my good friend posted it on Facebook a few months ago, and it’s been ricocheting around in my brain ever since I read it. The author is Theodore Roosevelt – apparently, that man had some things figured out that I’ve taken longer to learn.
In my constant striving to be succinct, I search for quick ways to express the themes in my life, and currently, this quote pretty much sums it up. Not surprisingly, I was using this quote in accusation as I thought I was above the comparison habit.
January found me on the other end of various difficult conversations. My current daily work involves helping people get unstuck, and to help them get unstuck, I have to hear how they are…stuck.
And as you can likely guess, most of the stories were hard to hear – after all, people don’t ask for help to fix something that is working.
So, I found myself listening to the painful situations in which people find themselves.
After nearly three weeks of these stories, my overriding feeling is one of guilt, and it’s evil twin, shame.
I’ve gotten reasonably good at identifying when I feel guilty, and so I asked myself: “how is it that I feel guilty after simply trying to help people?”
So, I started looking for reasons for the guilt, and I realized what else I have been doing:
I was comparing my current situation to everyone else’s.
And I was coming up as the winner.
I was comparing myself to others and saying to myself: “who am I to help these people? Look at my life; it’s going pretty well. What would possess these people to ask for my help, and who do I think I am to give it, when clearly, I could not possibly understand their situation, did not have similar hurdles to overcome, etc., etc., etc.”
As I compared my life to theirs, in crept the evil emotional twin-headed monster of guilt and shame.
HOW DARE I COMPARE MY SITUATION TO THEIRS? I’M A WHITE PRINCESS THAT HAS HAD EVERYTHING HANDED TO HER IN LIFE!
I contemplated running away from work (again) and started thinking about what I could do instead as clearly I must be in the wrong line of business.
So I hopped on my bike; it’s my primary means of escape-and-running-away transportation.
As I rode up a hill through a thunderstorm, I remembered COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY!!! (And bike riding brings joy back, as long as the lightning doesn’t get you).
My pain was my pain, and no one else’s just like their pain was theirs. I don’t need to justify my pain or compare it to yours or anyone else’s pain. It is my pain, and it is and was significant enough for me.
I got myself out of my pain using the tools that were available to me.
One of those tools is practicing gratitude, and on Sunday, I got a reminder of another tool: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”