Starbucks hadn’t even been in my plan that day. A friend called, saying she was coming by to pick me up and to be ready in 15 minutes. After browsing a few stores, we made a quick stop at Starbucks.
We placed our orders, and as the baristas made our drinks and readied orders for the drive-thru, I realized I had been in a few classes with one of them and we had graduated at the same time.
And as this former classmate prepared lattes and tea, a bit of smugness worked its way into my head.
I too was working part-time jobs at the time, but, as I reminded myself, both of them were somehow related to what I had studied in college. We may have graduated around the same time, but if life is a game of getting ahead, I was winning.
I should have slapped myself.
Comparing myself to this former classmate is exactly the type of thing I hate when people do to me, even if they never say it out loud. It puts one party in one camp that is somehow superior to the other, and ignores that different can be just that–different. Not one that is better than the other, just not the same.
It isn’t really about the former classmate. This thought can pop up in a variety of circumstances, but in all of them, comparison is the problem.
In her book Bittersweet, Shauna Niequist writes:
When you compare yourself to another person, you always lose, and at the same time the other person always loses, too. Each of us has been created by the hands of a holy God, and our stories and the twists and turns of our lives, the things that are hard for us, and the things that come naturally, are as unique to us as our own fingerprints. One way to ensure a miserable life is to constantly measure your own life to the lives of the people around you.
Even though in this instance I deemed myself the “winner,” my comparison immediately makes me the loser and strips the other person of their worth.
My smugness invalidates the importance of the work others are doing. My smugness leaves no room for my own insecurities and trepidation over what I am doing. And worst of all, my smugness can’t appreciate the beauty in each person’s unique story.
This is not the first time I have had unsavory thoughts regarding others at Starbucks, but it’s not the coffee shop that’s the problem.
I’m the problem.
This is not a story with an ending. I am continually at work in the quest to not compare. Though I do think my age breeds it more easily because the lives of my peers are in dramatically different places, I am learning that comparison plagues people of all ages and life stages. In all of them, it is ugly.
And in all of them, there is room to grow. To learn and find a better way, one of appreciation for our own story, and of the beauty of the differences between ours and the person next to us.
Til next time…
p.s. Have you ever gotten smug from comparison? What helps you not compare?