Comparing Yourself to Others

I have learned to be careful about not comparing my life to those that are healthier and wealthier than me because I believe doing so can lead to hopelessness and depression.

I suppose it’s unrealistic, at least for me, not to compare our life to the lives of others, but I’ve discovered that I can choose who I compare myself with. Instead of comparing myself to people who are wealthy, healthy; people doing things like taking exotic vacations to places I’ve always wanted to visit etc, I compare my lot in life with the unhealthy, the persecuted and the poor.

Like all aspects of maintaining hope, this kind of selective comparison doesn’t come naturally for most of us not living in Third-world nations. For many years, even before I had ALS, I practiced this selective comparison by reading articles and watching documentaries about the poor and persecuted of the world and by following and supporting ministries and missionaries that worked to relieve their suffering.

Then, about 2 & ½ years ago, I became a missionary myself; an “Online Missionary” with an organization called Global Media Outreach. This is a great non-denominational Internet ministry that is able to reach people with the Gospel in areas that traditional missionaries cannot go; remote regions and nations like China and Iran where mission work is restricted or banned altogether. GMO has roughly 100 different Internet sites that can be accessed via computer and/or a cell phone. One or more of these sites will always be among the first listed when people Google words like Jesus, Christianity, religion or God etc. GMO has thousands of volunteers that communicate with millions of people every year. I’ve heard many heartbreaking stories from people that have emailed or texted me through GMO, many of which have become close friends of mine. The following are some of stories I’ve heard.

  • Men and women in Africa dying from AIDS or other diseases.
  • New Christians in the Middle-east living in fear of their Muslim family discovering they’ve converted (one 20 year-old man was living in hiding from his father).
  • Abandoned or widowed mothers contemplating giving up their children because they cannot afford to feed them.
  • People who are bound by long-term drug, alcohol or sexual addictions.

These are just a few examples of stories I hear regularly from people I communicate with through GMO. These are also the people I choose to compare my life to and by doing so I feel extremely blessed.

My oldest daughter and her husband recently took a mission trip to Uganda and they both told me it was a reality check for them. They saw what life was like for the vast majority of people on this earth; not knowing where their next meal would come from and living in fear that a drink of water or a bite from a mosquito might make them violently ill or even end their life. Lauren and James don’t have much, but, like Mary and I, they feel blessed because they’ve chosen to measure their life by the reality of Uganda instead of by the “American dream.”

I believe everyone, especially followers of Christ and Christians going through trials, should do volunteer work to help the less fortunate and to give us a realistic gauge to measure our life and current circumstances by and most of all to be obedient to Christ.

“I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me…Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (Mathew 25:35-40)

“Instead of comparing our lot with that of those who are more fortunate than we are, we should compare it with the lot of the great majority of our fellow men. It then appears that we are among the privileged.” 

Helen Keller

About Bill Sweeney

In 1996, at the age of 36, I was diagnosed with ALS. The neurologist gave me 3-5 years to live. 24 years later... :-) I'm completely paralyzed and unable to speak. By God's grace and the great care of my wife, I'm still here. I live to encourage and give hope to others going through difficult times.

Posted on July 25, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. Hi Bill…. well I certainly relate to much of your post.

    I agree completely that comparing ourselves to those whose lives and circumstances simply are not relevant to ours really serves no point.

    I had to come to this when I found myself feeling like I had failed on a few fronts in life and began comparing myself to others who I believe hadnt. But what relevance was there in those comparisons? Do we have the same neurology? Same family support growing up? Same personality and outlooks? No.

    I discovered well into my adulthood that I have been battling an anxiety disorder my whole life. Why would I compare the results of my life to someone who is never anxious? Unless I am in a healthy way trying to emulate his/her more healty behaviour. But I should never try to score myself against their achievements as they are not relevant.

    I suppose I have experienced comparisons to be a dangerous thing if handled wrong. Sadly, many of us have used comparisons to beat others down, or to combat our weaknesses. These to me are unhealthy uses of comparisons.

    On the other hand, enhancing one’s gratitude in life by comparing to someone who has less, can be an incredibly healthy and inspiring thing.

    Maybe I am simply at a stage in life where I need a break from comparisons due to my mis-handling of them for so many years. And I will make this admission as well…. I recognize out of my own weaknesses, I had prompted others to compare themselves to me by me subtly flaunting and boasting about my successes. I took what I thought was affirmation and admiration from people yet really, I was trying to make them feel inferior so I could feel better about myself.

    This to me is what boasting or flaunting really is… it is attempting to have others make a comparison in which we will be recognized as having an advantage or being superior in some way. Pretty sick eh?

    So maybe I am just a little comparison-allergic at this stage of my life, having discovered some things about my former self that I find unpalatable. And as a result, have learned to live with them only on a very limited basis. For now anyway.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post.



    • Chaz, I agree with you completely about not comparing ourselves to others who had a better/more stable childhood or other advantages. I hear people say that God will judge us for what we did with that which we’ve been given (wealth, childhood, intellect, knowledge of Christ etc). In his book “Mere Christianity,” CS Lewis also writes about this. And, the Bible does say; “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” (Luke 12:48)
      But we all must do the best with the “tools” we’ve been given and it sounds like that’s what you’re doing.


  2. I could not agree w/ you more. At times my own little cross can seem overwhelming. Yet when I look around, the crosses others bear are always humbling for me. We do not always recognize its power, but prayer is another means of reaching out, when our physical limitations will not allow that.



    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good morning Bill Just read this article I agree with you on comparing ourselves with those who are less fortunate than ourselves. But I have a thought which I have carried for many years now and in part, that is that the American dream, has and will turn out to be the American Nightmare. And for many this dream from which they cannot awake will only end, and really begin in earnest at the Judgment of God when they must stand, and face him at last, and there is no more dream to dream, and no more fantasy chase. I have said that this life ‘here’ in North America is not real, but a fantasy. One thing about having debilitating, long term disease as we both have is that there is little room for the fantasies, and shallowness of our culture, life is often too real even for our own hearts to bear.

    But God is close to those who suffer, and thirst, and Hunger, Longing for the day of the Lord, when He will make all things New .

    Lord Bless your people with grace and mercy, teach us to extend our hand’s as they were your hands and give mercy and love to the one in need.

    Who is more needy than the rich ruler, and the wealthy horder , who will have nothing, and no grace in the last day?
    Hubert Rondeau


    • Trials do help you put things in perspective. Some of the things (material things) I once thought important no longer are.


      • yeah same here Bill not much is real that we don’t have in our hearts, and most of the time I think of the things of the world not as what we have, but what has us.


        • I suppose if there’s one advantage to being completely disabled, it’s that material things don’t matter to me like they do to most able-bodied people because I can’t use anything:-) The last cell phone I had (1996) was too big to even put in a suit coat pocket. I’ve never used a phone to text someone, never used a GPS or I-Pod etc. Sometimes it feels like the “Twilight Zone,” I am merely an observer:-)


          • i understand that very well Bill “Most of the time I feel completely invisible like I’m not even here. How much use do you have, I mean of your hands and arms ? I can do most things I have ever done but sometimes My strength lasts moments, and other ties its fair, and them other times it flushes away instantly. Just driving home today was an intense endeavor, often I cant hold the wheel I just drive with my thumbs half wrapped around the bottom and rest them on my knees.
            :-0 I know twilight zone we call it Fibro fog lived there for years .. fighting hard to get out of that.


          • I don’t have any use of my arms and hands… But, unlike you and so many others I know of, I am thankful that I don’t experience much physical pain.


          • Yeah Pain is very hard to cope with, but the worst thing for me is the mental agony of FMS we aren’t mentally unstable , but the brain issues we feel and live with make us feel, and look so, quite often, And most of the time people are scared of us like most people are scare of people with mental diseases. So we soon become invisible and end up all alone REGARDLESS of the fact that a little love and tenderness always relieves and heals the wounded soul. Where are the Christians I as Bill?

            I pray you have a beautiful day in the grace and comfort of the Lord. Please tell me more about you I’ll talk to you later



  4. shelleywilliamsblog

    Lesson well learned. There is always some one worst off then you.
    You are a blessing from God. Yes you are extremely blessed.
    Thank you so much for liking my blog.


  5. What a beautiful blog! I am not sure how you found my website (jbutzu, but I am so glad you did! I enjoyed this article immensely and am grateful that others, like myself have found that serving others is so much better than serving one’s own self. I appreciate your work and enthusiasm and would so much like to stay in touch. You can reach me through facebook or by email through my blog. I would so much like to hear your input and wisdom from time to time, as I am a single man attempting to run my own website on top of doing all my own research on top of working with inner city kids and adults. May God bless you and your family for now and forever more.
    With love and respect,
    John Butzu


  6. Good post!! You are so right–we always focus on the wrong people when we begin comparing ourselves to others and God doesn’t want us to do that. There is a verse in the Bible that says comparing ourselves to others is unwise. Probably because we always tend to compare ourselves with the wrong people. The ministry you are in sounds great. thanx for visitng my blog–simplemeditations:)


  7. where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. how wonderful it is to know the Lord…!


  8. Mr. Bill, my name is Cathy and I’ve been at The Ark for 9 yrs now. Your post is confirmation to me that I will indeed become part of GMO. I also work with World Vision and every day I fight to save these precious children. I do exactly what you’re talking about…I compare my life with others around the world who are in so much despair. I am a single mom who, though I struggle financially, am blessed beyond imagination! My God pours His favor upon every single day!! God bless you Mr. Sweeney!!! By the way, I saw your post because of Rob.


  9. Debbie, you were one of the people who taught us this lesson!


  10. You hit the nail on the head. Isn’t the root cause of most depression the fact that the focus is on one’s own self, not on others around them? Pouring into another person’s life IS the key to banishing depression. Let’s not pull others down with us (misery loves company?) but lift others up and, in the same motion, restore joy and realize appreciation for what we have, not what we don’t have.


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