Comparison Is the Thief of Joy


Comparison Is the Thief of JoyIf you have followed my writing over the years, you know I have three sons. While one is a baby who barely crawls, the other two are rambunctious and growing big boys. To work off some of that energy, we enrolled in youth basketball this season. This was my middle son’s first year of organized sports, but big brother is becoming a pro as it was his third. Consequently, there were immediate and stark differences between the boys. My oldest has had a ball of some sort in his hands since he was a little one. I have countless pictures of him playing with one, often bigger than his little body. He has innate athleticism, and though he is young, his natural talent is obvious. Plus, he absolutely LOVES basketball. My middle little also enjoys the sport, but began playing a year later than my oldest. So, a later start and a more marginalized general interest in the game have resulted in his mediocre performance.

And guess what? That is perfectly okay. You see, we like what we like and are good at what we are good at.

While we have begun to take advantage of these teachable moments, they are sometimes overshadowed by something else: people automatically pointing out the differences we are working so hard to not emphasize. As we have loved the cheers and applause from family, friends, and onlookers, do you know who else has heard the same? My middle son. I know the kind remarks and conversations are to encourage my oldest, but they are so much sweeter when they don’t follow with what my middle son needs to do to accomplish the same victory. You might be thinking it’s just basketball, and while that is true, my mama heart is inclined to think basketball today, and who knows what else tomorrow?

You see, people have a natural knack for comparing things. Psychologists and academics tend to believe that this behavior is a natural part of human cognition and improves personal growth. This may be true in theory, but I think it can be detrimental to a small child. I have heard people compare my children to one another (and other children in some cases) in sports, academics, physical stature, behavior, and so forth. Regardless of the innocent intent, I implore us adults to take a different approach. Simply give the praise, and that’s it. Often, verbalizing the similarities is unnecessary and may cause more damage than intended.

Then, just as important, let’s remind our kiddos that it is perfectly fine to acknowledge when someone else is better at something than we are. This is not something we should let get us down. Instead, we should focus on being genuinely happy for others and work to discover who we are and where our strengths lie. If we waste our time comparing ourselves to others or allowing others to do so, we miss that special something we possess. Besides, the journey is more enjoyable when we stay in our own lane.

Yes, children will have to learn that the world will not always be happy and full of sunshine and rainbows, but as adults, we can do our part to be mindful of our actions and speech because words have weight.

Let’s encourage camaraderie over competition because you would be surprised at how long your words can echo in the heart of a child long after you have spoken them.


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