If you’re a fan of the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder you probably remember Nellie Oleson— she was the snobby store owners’ daughter in the series. Later in the series, the situation changed and Laura’s family was better off. This side plot is relatable for so many readers because comparison has been creating drama in relationships since the beginning of time.
However, the damage caused by this natural tendency has become far more dangerous in the past 20 years. In this information age it’s easier than ever to find people who have more, do more, and seemingly are more than us. We are no longer comparing ourselves against the Olesons or the Joneses— we have the Kardashians , the Zuckerburgs, and countless others. Thanks to social media you also see highlights from the lives of every single person you’ve connected with over the past 10-15 years.
But perhaps the most dangerous comparison tool isn’t other people, but raw data. In these days when people are often viewed as “human resources” our children are constantly pushed to meet increasingly irrelevant standards in order to “compete” on a global level. And it’s a dangerous game.
As I wrote in a recent blog post, no child should die a victim of comparison. And yet that’s exactly what’s happening when academic pressure leads to suicide and when children are bullied (in person and online) for being different. As moms, grandmothers, aunts, and friends we need to help protect our children and encourage each other. As my dear friend Joan says, the best approach to growth is “competing against yourself.” When we choose to focus on building up ourselves and others we are breathing life into a suffering world.