Comparison: The Friendship Killer
When we first moved to Charlotte in July 1995, we didn't know anyone. JJ had just graduated from VA Tech 6 weeks earlier, we had a newborn (Joshua) and were both starting new jobs - me at home; him at work. Here I was in a new city, looking for a new church and hoping to find some new friends. I was so lonely and felt so insecure.

Charlotte is a very big, very wealthy and very busy city. There are huge churches, huge neighborhoods and lots of huge houses. Everywhere I went, women looked like they had it all together. I struggled so much with comparison and felt like no one needed a friend except me.

I had only been a Christian for 6 years and was still looking through the world's lens to define what mattered most in a friendship. I had nothing to give; nothing that would make me "desirable" as a friend. I didn't know what I was doing as a mom. I needed someone to show me. I didn't know much about being a wife either. We'd only been married 18 months. I didn't even have a cute house that would be fun to host a play date.

The mom's I met in the nursery or at mom's groups were all married to someone their age or older, so they had a house, nice clothes and more stuff than we did. I felt so discontent in our tiny apartment with minimal furniture. I thought that if women who had it all - in my eyes- knew how much we didn't have, they wouldn't want to be my friend. (I know that is crazy but a girl's gotta be honest.)

Our bedroom furniture was mine from grade school. Our nursery had a consignment store white metal crib and a dresser I bought for $5 from friend. We had one rocking chair and a couch so there wasn't much seating in the living room. We rarely had friends over and when we did I was embarrassed to show them around. (I'm sorry if my selfishness offends you. Now you know how very imperfect I am...which is a good thing.)

A year after we moved here, a friend told us about a sweet 1250 square foot cottage-like home in their neighborhood. It even had a one-car garage and fenced in backyard. Our first home. I loved it. I just knew I'd be content and finally be able to open my home to friends.

My house was great until God gave me friends with bigger houses. I'll never forget a mutual friend introducing me to a really fun mom who had a son the same age as Joshua. The boys became buddies and our families started hanging out together. The only problem was that her husband was a professional football player. I never wanted her to see my house because I knew it was probably the size of her garage.

As you can imagine, my relationships with women were pretty "on the surface" in my late twenties and early thirties. It took me years to develop meaningful friendships. I look back now and see how all of that comparison kept me from having or being a good friend.

When we compare how we feel on the inside about our selves with how someone else looks like she has it all together, we will never see the beauty of what we each have to give to each other.

I am so glad God kept bringing women into my life that had much more stuff than I did, and still continues to do so. Through this process He searches my heart to see what I think matters most in a friend and challenges me to give from the riches He has stored, not in my home but in my heart.

Is it just me, or do all women struggle with comparison- whether we compare our homes, our kids, our husbands, our ministries, our abilities, our weight, our wardrobe, our personality, our (you fill in the blank) ______? And doesn't it hurt our relationships with each other?

Has comparison ever affected how you see yourself as a friend or how you approach those you want or don't want to be friends with? If so, how?

I'll be doing my "friend-shippy" give-away this weekend. I plan to print all of the comments from this week and draw a name. So, post your thoughts on comparison and you will be entered. Simply click on the word, "Comments" below and be sure to include your email in case you win.


Blogger April said...

Hey Renee! Comparison has definitely kept me from reaching out and making friends, unfortunately, it's something I still struggle with. Maybe that's why most of my good friends are family and love me in spite of myself! In our church most of the moms my age or moms with kids my age, are thin, I am not, and haven't been since I got pregnant with my first child 8 and a half years ago. I have felt inferior to them. I also live in a 1200 sq. ft. home with one bathroom, and four children with lots of hand me down furniture that isn't exactly holding up. It didn't really bother me until recently, when someone I am very close to moved into a huge home and has decorated her home with the help of Pottery Barn. Then I started feeling like I couldn't have anyone over because my house wasn't nearly as nice(and I had some friends make some remarks about my home, like "Instead of adding on or remodeling, why don't you just move?") I'm trying to get out of the comparison trap, and I daily ask for God to let me see myself the way He sees me. Thank you for your post, you've given me a lot to think and pray about! Sincerely, April

Blogger Joyful said...

Ah..the great comparison trap. Comparison has so often robbed me of reaching out to others - already deciding that for whatever reason, the other person wouldn't want to be my friend - if only we could understand that all of us is like the rest of us - no matter how we may appear, our desire for friends is the same. Praying the Lord will give me eyes to see others for who they are without the packaging - and teach me to be happy in my own skin. I've often found that those who seem the most secure and confident on the outside - maybe because of position or ability - are the ones longing for close friendship the most, yet I just assume they must have a huge circle of friends and I feel insecure to approach them because of their ministry role. (Quite honestly - it took a lot of courage for me to begin commenting in your blog for the same reason - you're a Proverbs 31 speaker/writer - what could I possibly have to offer? So glad the Lord let me get past that and get a glimpse of Renee - a woman like me, just with a more visual profile.)
Thanks for letting us see your heart.

Blogger Amy L Brooke said...

This hit home! I've suffered from comparisonitis for as long as I can remember. I'm an identical twin, so everyone was always comparing us -- espcially my parents. Perhaps, it was natural for me to grow up to do it myself as an adult.

I always feel like I am in the one-man-down position. The problem with that is that it takes my eyes off what God has given me.

I just posted on this yesterday under "Do Not Stop On Tracks." For me, it always leads to jealousy which leads to insecurity and more jealousy and on and on and on . . . .

Thanks for sharing.

Blogger Cindy said...

Hi Renee, I have spent some time this morning reading your friendship series. What a wonderful and unexpected blessing it has been.

I think as women, most of all fall into this comparison trap. I know I have over the years. Although I have a great deal of friends (wouldn't consider them all dear friends, more like acquaintances), I only have one true girlfriend that I know loves me regardless of how I look that day, my mood, my imperfections in motherhood, whatever the case may be, as I do her. We've journeyed together down this road we call life, and no matter what, I know we are always there for one another. God brought her back into my life just when we needed each other most. And I know our friendship is God given, because we had known each other for years before but couldn't bond the way we wanted or needed too. Until God intervened in our lives. I thank God for this special friendship.

We don't compare ourselves to one another, unless it is in a jokingly way. We accept the other with thier faults and all. I love sharing time with her, because I don't have to worry about what I say or do because I don't feel judged by her. And I know she isn't by me. It's a awesome gift to share.

Again, thanks for this series. I truly enjoyed it.

Now, I need to call my girlfriend to see what we are going to do this weekend?


Anonymous Josie said...

I so understand where you are coming from! My big problem now is after a while in the darkness I have come back to the light (that is not my problem) and my husband is still in the darkness. Being married to a nonbeliever it is so hard to invite church friends, Bible study friends etc to my home. I am afraid my husband will put them down, on the spot or something of that nature. He does nt have the best vocabulary and that would embarass me to tears. I pray that God will bring him around like He did me, but until then I struggle. Thanks for listening and sharing. Josie

Blogger Shelley said...

I married at 20 and it was a very lonely time. None of my friends from college were married yet and everyone we met in the "young married" class at church was at least 30. I felt so young and poor in comparision. But, the birth of our first child brought some commonality for me to make friends with ladies and I learned to get over the fact that their house was bigger, etc. For many years my 3 closest friends were 11, 12 and 14 years older than me. I think God used those early years of my adulthood to teach me not to compare.

Blogger Mocha with Linda said...

You are a brave woman to open this particular can of worms!! I think this is one of the biggest strongholds women struggle with. I know for me it has been huge.

When I was younger (junior high) I even had some teachers who reinforced this by differential treatment of the "beautiful rich kids". Things like that leave lasting scars. Not necessarily bitterness, they just imprint us with ways of thinking.

And sadly, even church environments can be riddled with oneupmanship.

I could fill in your blank with so many things! Fortunately, maturity and a much more authentic church have helped me. But it's something that is wired into us, some of us more than others, and it is a very real struggle.

How important it is for us to align ourselves vertically with God instead of horizontally with others.

Thanks for your wonderful soul-searching posts. They have much to ponder.

Sorry to be so chatty--again! Gotta go work on my blog; it's not near as cute as everyone else's!! ;-) LOL

Have a blessed weekend!


Blogger Kelli said...

Hey Renee,
Thank you so much for showing us your heart on this subject. It really is comforting that other women (even women who seem to have it all together) struggle with the comparison issue. It makes me realize that if I was the one who reached out a little more maybe I would be an encouragement to someone who may be struggling a little more than me. We moved to OK a couple of years ago and from being born and raised in Chicago, it seems like all the women down here have the “bling” goin’ on and are always dressed and made up to a degree that I am not used to. So while I may not struggle with the house issue as much, I struggle more with, do I have the right jewelry for the outfit… or the cute shoes to go with something.

Thanks again for reaching out and being so honest…it’s what we as women need in girlfriends.


Blogger Bonita said...

You really spoke to my heart today because I've struggled with the house thing for years. My house is old and we did a lot of updates years ago, but now the updates need updates and we still have stuff that we've never actually gotten around to fixing. I've never fully embraced this house as "home" and I don't feel like it reflects me at all and a home should be a reflection of the woman who is the queen of it. I refer to my neighborhood as Redneck Woods if that tells you anything.

We are not among the wealthy Charlotteans that abound around us. We've still got old furniture, old carpet stains, old everything it seems sometimes. Plus, I'm just not gifted in interior design or giving a house that homey feel. I feel so totally inadequate in this arena. Though I've gotten much better at opening my home to others, I still feel uneasy because I feel like they think that I'm lazy or I don't have enough faith to believe for better things or I'm not the person they thought I was before they saw the house. And to be honest, I've encountered some people that are so bent on material things that I could almost tangibly feel their rejection.

I think I've always struggled with feeling "less than" and the house is just one of many areas that are very tender spots. Anyway, that's more than you wanted to hear, but all that to say that I can so relate to this blog entry.

You don't have to enter me in the contest, I just wanted to blab.

Blogger Celly B said...

Oh, Renee! I think you have struck such a chord with this topic. Don't we all struggle with feeling inferior in some way to others? I think that we have such a desire to appear that we have it all together that we are successful, and that success is intimidating to others. Oh, that we could let our guards down and be "real" with one another! I know that one group of friends (more like acquaintances) I had were very interested in talking about all the updates on their large homes, salon appointments, and the latest purchases from the trendiest boutiques, and I felt so out of place. I now am making friends with women in a homeschooling support group, but I still find myself wondering if I am doing as much as they are in the spiritual education of my children. Will my children seem ill behaved compared to theirs? When will the comparisons stop? I must constantly remind myself that each part of the body of Christ needs the other.

Blogger Digging for Pearls said...

I guess for me it probably is a struggle between comparison as well as low self esteem. Having some friendships in the past that didn't end very well can make you hesitant to reach out.

Blogger Jai said...

Thank you Renee for your openess and transparency with this post. I can certainly identify with you and have found myself reaching out to women who were in my eyes "on the same level as me". What is funny is when I started out with a friend who was "like me", something financially would happen (more $$, bigger house, promotions at work) and she would almost instantly have more than me (for all I know she could have it before I could SEE IT) and the friendships would drift and sadly I did NOT do anything to keep it going, because I felt like she would want someone "like her" as a closer friend anyway. I am almost positive I have missed out on some great lifelong friendships. I have to pray and ask the Lord to open my heart and mind and continue to build on the friendships I have right now. I am learning from the ones who have more and the ones who have less and I am TRYING not to compare. What God has for me is for me.

Anonymous lelxanddaltonsnanna said...

I use to deal with the comparison issue. In high school most people were scared to death of me, because of the chip I had on my shoulder.I so wanted to fit in and I was so different.I thought I could make people like me by scaring them. Then I met the man God wanted me to marry. I wanted what other people had a big house, fancy cars, but was (from what people tell me) so much fun to be around they couldn't tell it. We have a modest home and a used van. I changed alot of hwo I acted after I was saved. I don't have a problem making friends now I can truely say I have several close friends. I read in one of the posts that Kelli moved to OK and didn't think she fit in with thier style. I never really thought that I was one of those people that intimated people. I have my own style, there are certain things I like and I am not afraid of that. I don't have fine china, or furniture you can't sit on except when "company comes"(that's a southern term).If you can't use it I don't want it. I try to speak to every one new at our church because I remember what it was like in high school to be snubbed. I never want any one to feel that way. Thank you for reminding me that I could be a comparison issue and all I want is to be used by God.
Your sister in "Christ"

Blogger Reba123 said...

Hi Renee! I just found your blog and P31 website. I know God led me to it, and I am certainly glad He did! I have struggled with the comparison issue, too. What I am learning is that it all really doesn't matter. Your friends will be your friends no matter what if they are truly your friends. I am so guilty of trying to seem like I have it all together or have more than I do. I don't want to be like this. I want the simple life without having to be someone I'm not. I have faith that God will show me way to do this.

Blogger LuvtheWord said...

Thank you for your honesty. Comparisons are one of the greatest distractions, and I remember struggling with it since I was in Intermediate School... long time ago. If Satan can get my attention turned to the "right or to the left," then he disables my effectiveness. When I keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, I am able to be content and grateful and have his heart to reach out to others.

Blogger Cyndi said...

Thanks for speaking straight from your heart to mine. I am very guilty of comparing my life to another woman's. Always feeling that I don't measure up. "Everyone" else has more money, a bigger home, nicer things, the ability to do do what they want when they want, able to give their kids anything, so on and so on. I forget that what really matters is who we are and the friendship we have to offer each other. Wouldn't it be nice if sometimes you didn't know what the other person has in terms of material things. But that's really the way it should be anyway, to look beyond or past what they have and we don't. Life's too short for me to continue comparing myself to others and feeling that I don't measure up. As women, we have so much to offer each other that goes beyond our material posessions. Thank you for reminding me.

Blogger MrsProverbs31 said...

Hi Renee,

Comparison has definitely kept me from reaching my heights. I compare (not as much anymore)everything-abilities, talents, homes, fashions, money-you name it, I compare it.

But, God showed me that until I learn to be content with where I am and get rid of all the hidden baggages, I wasn't going to reach any heights. Slowly and surely, I'm moving in His directions. But, boy, that was hard and is still. He's been very faithful.

Sometimes, I still feel excluded in social fellowships. I feel very uncomfortable if I attend a social gathering and no one says hi to me. And, I'm not confident enough to start a conversation. I feel so out of place.

I wear hand-me-down clothes and I used to feel so uncomfortable with it. But, I'm also learning to count my blessings. There are so many homeless people. So many people who don't have the privilege I do: how they would do anything to get to this country and I passed through with flying color. So, I guess it's better to have a tiny little home than no home. It's better to have hand-me-down clothes than no clothes. I am truly bless. Now, if you can show me how to develop good friends, that will be great. Shoua

Blogger MaryLu said...

I felt much the same way when we first got married. DH didn't have a good steady job, we were finishing college and we lived in the basement of the church's rental house, which we later had to move from because they burned it to the ground and expanded the parking lot. I did an infinite amount of comparison and felt very disconnected with the ladies at church. Mostly because they had new homes, which they owned, we were house sitting or we lived in a musty basement. We were college students, they had good jobs, and on and on it went.
I still have a tendency to compare. It is a friendship killer for sure.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I struggled with comparison so much. It really came to a head this April when I was at a women's retreat with some online friends. It was like all of sudden I realized that I was valuing everyone else, and putting myself down, when in God's eyes, I was very special and loved. It's nice to know I'm not alone with that struggle. I find that more and more I am able to be authentic, but it takes practise and courage. Thanks for sharing.


Blogger Kelly said...

I can certainly relate to comparisons and they can go both ways...where I feel inferior and insecure around other women who might be thinner, dressed nicer, more put together..but then there are times when I have felt superior towards other women around me that I felt were more frumpy and not put together. And that's just talking about appearances. I have friends who have beautiful bedrooms decorated just as they bedroom has a gun safe and hunting equipment stashed in the corner. It's easy to compare, and feel inferior, and feel superior. My prayer lately is anytime I feel either to pray immediately and ask God to change my thoughts and heart attitude right then, and pray for the person I am feeling that way about!

Blogger Mocha with Linda said...

Hi Renee,

I know you're a busy lady, but if you could stop by my blog and read today's post (Saturday), I hope it blesses your day as much as you bless me!

Have a great weekend.

Anonymous Patti VZ said...

WOW, Renee, did this ever hit home. My house has been in the process of remodeling for seven years now. I am constantly telling myself that I couldn't possibly have HER over as my house looks so awful compared to hers. UGH! I need to remind myself that I need remodeling as much as if not MORE than the house does!

Blogger Mocha with Linda said...

You are too sweet! And no, I debuted in the blog world with my first little post on Jan 2, just a few short weeks ago!! I'm about as green as they come!

Can't wait to hear the story about you and Lysa when you get done with your speaking prep!


Blogger Heather@Mommymonk said...

Your honesty about the challenges of friedship is heartwarming. I can relate to your thoughts - especially comparing my simple home to others. Thankfully, I've gotten over it and invited people in even if it isn't perfect. But, at our core, we all need friends no matter how "put together" we appear on the outside.

Blogger Heather said...

Ah yes.. good ol' comparison. Such a crafty detrailing tool! I've memorized 2 Cor. 10:12 for just such occasions as a reminder that this "is not wise". It really does get us nowhere good does it? Something in fact to "cast down" and replace with a truth: we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that he provides our daily manna, our daily bread. For me? I somehow just "see" all the amazing gifts that others have to offer, but struggle in feeling I have to offer anything important in return. I guess the question that begs to be answered is what are friendships all about? What is God's design? How did Christ model this? I've had on my "to do list" a study of the disciples, lots to learn there!

Blogger Heather said...

Ah yes.. good ol' comparison. Such a crafty detrailing tool! I've memorized 2 Cor. 10:12 for just such occasions as a reminder that this "is not wise". It really does get us nowhere good does it? Something in fact to "cast down" and replace with a truth: we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that he provides our daily manna, our daily bread. For me? I somehow just "see" all the amazing gifts that others have to offer, but struggle in feeling I have to offer anything important in return. I guess the question that begs to be answered is what are friendships all about? What is God's design? How did Christ model this? I've had on my "to do list" a study of the disciples, lots to learn there!

Blogger Lelia Chealey said...

Hi Renee!
I have such a content hubby that he really keeps me balanced in this area. I have a friend that has called herself, 'upper middle class' and has to let you know the sticker price on everything from her house to her kids' education~very shallow words I must say.
Anyway, we didn't speak for about 4 years because of this kind of thing. I forgave her of what happened & moved on, but the comparing of material stuff was so ridiculous. The funny part was, that she had aa rich mom who provided all the "stuff" even the education for the kids she brags about. So strange. I guard my heart with this type of friendship, that's for sure.
Love your posts!

Hi Renee,

My first visit here but what an awesome conversation!

I've definitely felt the comparison issue when I used to live in a town that was FULL of The Beautiful Mommies. I joined a gym for exercise and friendship only to have to hear about exotic vacations and plastic surgery. Being a minister's wife, I certainly had nothing to contribute to either of those topics.

I was mortified one day when one of these Perfect Moms jumped in my Suburban for a field trip. She had a spotless, brand-new SUV and mine had chicken nuggets and fries under the seats. I decided to stop apologizing for all I lacked and to ask her how she kept it all together. She immediately burst into a million tears. I found out she was miserable with the pressure of keeping up appearances and was as desperate for an authentic friendship as I was.

What I learned is she really had no interest in what I didn't have -what she wanted from me was sincerity. Not THAT I had in large supply and we became great friends.

Loved this post...:)


Blogger Amy Wyatt said...

Hi Renee,
I love that when God starts trying to tell you something, He finds a dozen different ways to reinforce it, to make sure you "get it". He used your blog tonight to speak to me once again. I have been hearing a message over and over from Him about contentment. I think a lot of discontentment stems from comparison. It is certainly a scheme from our enemy to make us doubt ourselves. Many of us do play the comparison game when it comes to material possessions and physical appearance, but we also can fall victims to comparing ourselves spiritually to others too. We think we must be doing pretty well because we aren't "sinning" like someone else. Or we think we could never have the kind of relationship with Christ someone else has because we could never be good enough to deserve it. We forget it doesn't have anything to do with how good we are but with how good He is. One example in scripture of someone "wanting" to be compared is in Daniel chapter 1. Daniel asks the guard appointed over him, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah to compare their appearance after ten days to the other young men. This is after Daniel asks to be allowed not to defile himself by eating the royal food. When they were compared they looked healthier and better nourished. This reminds me that as long as I am following after God and His commands, being compared to anyone else should be no big deal. I'm going to always come out on top if I am obeying Him.

Anonymous JoJo said...

I used to put myself down and compared myself so much until I honestly believe the Lord spoke to me one day and said.....I made you the way you personality, the way I process things and so forth. Its as if I downplayed the "me" he created. I felt bad about that because I didn't realize that's what I was doing. Needless to say, that isn't an issue anymore. Of course, I have moments where the demon of comparison rears its ugly head but with the help of the Lord its dealt with. I even had the privilege of presenting a seminar about the same thing....Fearfully and Wonderfully Made based on Psalms 139:14
I'm also learning to be content with what God has enabled me to get according to my means and taste. My home has to be reflective of me and not someone else. If my family has no complaint, why should I, regardless of what anyone else has. I seldom have friends or family over and I seldom visit others. However, when I do, I admire what I see and so forth because they have what they have according to their means as well as taste. Thank you for the opportunity to share.
Be blessed.

Blogger Julian said...

Hey Renee;

I learned at a very early age that this comparison thing will haunt me. I remember in middle school living close enough to home, I had to go home for lunch and it was raining. My shoes was not good almost bottomless, I tried to change it and wear my church shoes to school. My mom said I had to go back to school without or wear the wet torn one. I went without because my toes were all on the ground anyway.

I was so humiliated! I had to figure something out. Thank God for the personality he gave me. I went back made lots of fun about being barefooted and then had some of my friends join me. From then I realized that I could get others to do what I wanted [in a nice way] there was no reason to be left out. You either do what I want or I am off, it has worked for many years. I have hidden for many years behind the facade that I do what I want when I wanted to but the truth is there were times when I wished someone would be stern enough for me to want to follow...

I am happy you have opened this topic because it only made me realize that we are all vulnerable irrespective of how we decide to deal with it.

Hi Renee,

I stumbled over here from another SheSpeaks contest post. It is the first time I'm at your blog and just scrolling down your posts, this one caught my attention. I know your giveaway is over, but I still wanted to let you know that your thoughts really resonated in my heart.

Comparison is so wicked, and is something I've struggled with in great measure -- yet only honestly recognizing in the recent years. As I look at my daughters (oldest is 8) and the teens I work with, I see how it begins slowly and steadily.

I really think the only solution is to find our identity in Christ and hold that piece right before us. Instead of looking left and right, we need to follow close behind the person, character, and love of God that came to us in the form of our Savior. The more I think on this, the more I believe it to be true. Now I'm just trying to figure out the words and examples to communicate that effectively to the kids (mine and my teen gals).

Thanks for stoking the fire of thought on this subject with your words.


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