We constantly feel the pressure to move on to the next phase of life. When you're single, the questions are, "Why are you single, and when are you going to start dating?"
When you're dating, it's, "When are you going to get married?"
When you're living in an apartment, it's, "When are you going to buy a house?"
And when you're married and in a house, it's, "When are you going to have kids?"
We have this constant pressure to upgrade our cars, careers, and social status. Where does it end?
We see our friends not only hitting those milestones but also buying each other lavish gifts, going on dream vacations, and looking as if they're perfectly happy all the time. We start to feel that our relationships aren't any good if our entire lives aren't one amazing moment after another. This is what we call the comparison trap, and it's completely toxic for relationships.
Comparing real life with fake happiness (Ryan)
The idea of jealousy or comparisons is nothing new—it goes all the way back to the Bible, but social media has heightened our awareness. Before, I would have to go to someone's house to see how he's living, but now all I have to do is check my news feed. Too often what we see on social media, at a party, or even on Sunday at church in no way reflects what's really going on in someone's life.
So many times I've seen a picture posted by a smiling and hugging couple and then, five minutes later, listened when they called and said they're in the middle of a fight. The same couples show up to church in their Sunday best for one main reason—to keep up appearances.
We all want to give the impression that we're happy. It's embarrassing to admit to any weakness, especially publicly. That's why you see people tweeting pictures of gifts, vacations, and nights out instead of a status like, "We're having issues tonight; pray for us."
None of us wants to be the person who cheated or the one who can't get along with his spouse. If you're feeling down about your relationship and post a picture of the two of you looking cute, you feel better when people post positive comments. Deep down I think many of us believe that if we tell the world that we're happy, then maybe we really will be happy.
But when others compare their real life with your fake happiness, they'll always come up short. As Dave Ramsey says, "Never compare someone else's highlight reel with your behind-the-scenes footage."
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Never compare someone else's highlight reel with your behind-the-scenes footage.
When you're using social media, it's a good practice to ask yourself, "Why am I posting this?" You're the only person who really knows the truth, and if there's a hidden agenda behind your posts, take some time to think about why it's important to you to send that message.
At the end of the day, we're all doing a little bit of self-marketing. We're putting something out there that tells the world we're okay. But what would happen if we stopped marketing ourselves on social media and started being a little more honest?
I'm not talking about airing all your dirty laundry; I'm suggesting making your social media accounts a more authentic representation of your life, your struggles, and your ups and downs. I believe this would allow us all feel a little bit better about ourselves if we could easily see that we're all really going through similar things.
I intentionally became a loser about a year ago, and it was one of the greatest days of my life. This meant simply looking at all the people I'd been comparing myself to and saying, “I don't need to have anything nicer than you. You have the better story and the cooler stuff. You win. I lose."
We all want a newer car, a nicer wardrobe, and a bigger house, but what would it feel like to surrender your need for those things and seek to find contentment with what you already have? To me, that's the only way to really win.
Trying to compete
Continually having your eye on someone else will keep you from being everything God has called you to be. Saul is the perfect example of what happens when you fall for the comparison trap. What Saul couldn't know is that the Bible describes him as "the most handsome man in Israel—head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land" (1 Samuel 9:2, NLT).
Now, there are many great patriarchs of the faith in the Old and New Testament: Abraham, Noah, Moses, Elijah, Peter, Paul, and so on, but none of them received a compliment like this. It's one thing for People magazine to say you're the most handsome man in the land, but if the Bible says it, that means you were really a stud!
The problem is, Saul didn't realize how amazing he was because he had his eye on someone else. First Samuel 18:9 tells us, ''And Saul eyed David from that day on." Who knows what would have happened to Saul if he'd stopped comparing himself to David? The course of history would have been altered if David and Saul had joined forces instead of competing.
We can always do more together than we can individually. Saul wasted resources, time, and energy trying to chase and kill David instead of experiencing what could have been one of the most kingly reigns in history with David by his side. We will always fail to see who we are when we're busy looking at others. What are you missing out on because you're busy trying to compete with someone else?
Learn what God thinks (Amanda)
If you're used to posting everything you do on social media, it can be oppressive to feel like you have to look your best at every moment and come up with something new and exciting to show. It's almost like we're all celebrities who might get snapped by the paparazzi when we're out getting groceries, but in this case we're our own paparazzi! Turn the camera off yourself and see how amazingly liberating it feels.
Of course, the best thing you can do to avoid falling for the comparison trap is to spend some time finding out what God thinks about you. Stop focusing on keeping up with the Leaks or whoever you have your eye on, and work on keeping up with God's image of you.
One morning as I scrolled through Facebook, I realized that I had a Bible app right next to the Facebook app, just a tap of the finger away. When I got rid of Facebook and started clicking on the Bible app instead, I was able to stop comparing myself to others and find what was really important.
Excerpted from The One by Ryan and Amanda Leak. Copyright © 2015 by Ryan Leak and Amanda Leak. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Listen to Ryan Leak tell FamilyLife Today® listeners how he planned a surprise wedding for Amanda with the help of her friends and family. And order the Leaks’ book, The One.