The Thief of Joy
“When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. ” (2 Corinthians 10:12b)
Teddy Roosevelt once said that “Comparison is the thief of joy.” As much as I find that to be entirely true, Teddy Roosevelt also never had Instagram. Nor did he work in a world where social media out-ranked nearly every other kind of human interaction in terms of showcasing one’s work.
I am heading to Arizona this week for a photography conference. I made the decision in February that I was going and I was going to get motivated, get inspired and get home ready to improve my business. Not long after I made the decision, I started noticing who was going and who wasn’t. Some of the speakers are the “who’s who” of the photography industry and some of the guests are people I’ve always wanted to meet. And just like that, the self-ranking of just where I stand among these photographers began.
I started to look to those who had a great big Facebook following as people I should know. I started pitting my work against others. I started doubting my legitimacy in being there, convincing myself that as soon as some of these people see my work they will laugh me right out of the conference. And there in that comparison trap, I was not only not joyful I was downright fearful. I had convinced myself I didn’t belong based on snap comparisons I formed based on nothing.
And then on Saturday morning, I got up before sunrise and headed out to take Berit Godo’s senior photos. And there in my world of doubt and insecurity God showed up, as He always does, in the sunrise. I composed a photo story of a girl I have known for five years and couldn’t be more honored to know. I got home to look at the pictures and I was blown away and one series stuck out in particular. Here, in my “never-as-good-as-the-next-guy” funk, God showed me that my art is beautiful because He made the sunrise and He made Berit and He made me and the photo was a reflection of Him not of me.
The Apostle Paul was talking about the same things with the Corinthians when he warned against measuring themselves against each other. He talks about how the people of the church in Corinth were commending themselves concerning their ministries and just how many people they had converted. It became a competition and not a lifelong pursuit of reflecting the good news of the Gospel. Their ministries had become reflections of themselves and therefore had become foolish, unwise and weak.
But Paul gives this encouragement: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Comparison among ourselves only reflects our own weaknesses, identity in Christ is pure, unadulterated strength and in that strength our joy is returned.
Ali can be reached via email here.