Our tree stands fresh and fragrant in the corner of the living room. One by one packages appear below its branches. I listen to my favorite carols, and my heart swells at every note.
Christmas is coming, and I don't wait for December 25: "Joy to the world!" I sing at the top of my lungs.
I find myself wishing that I could sustain those feelings. I want the joy of Christmas to pervade every part of my life.
Then I sit at my computer to look for holiday inspiration. And as I browse through all the beautiful images, I feel my joy drain away. Stolen once again.
I see the beautifully decorated houses, and my own home seems plain and boring by comparison. I get a glimpse of heartwarming family celebrations, and in comparison I feel cold and disconnected. I click through photos of amazing crafts that someone created, and my efforts seem pitiful by comparison.
Even the good things I do seem to pale in comparison to others' work. I hear that someone has raised thousands of dollars for a charity, and my gifts seem paltry by comparison. I try to make Christmas merry for my family, but then I read about the amazing holiday experiences of some families, and ours feel lame in comparison. Or else I read that some parents give their children only three gifts, and in comparison I feel extravagant and embarrassed.
Finally I realize that I'm doing this to myself. I'm comparing myself to others at every turn. Instead of gathering inspiration online, I've gathered reasons to feel inadequate. Rather than embracing the beauty of the season, I've turned it into a kind of competition.
Am I the only one? Or have you done it, too?
There's a way to end the comparison game. There must be, and it has become my quest to find it.
For now, I simply want to change my behavior. I want to call a halt to allowing the thief of comparison to steal the joy of Christmas.
So this season I will practice two alternatives: gratitude and blessing. I'm hoping that if I concentrate on being grateful for what I have, there won't be much time or energy left for concentrating on what I don't have. Then, filled with gratitude for my blessings, I am choosing to pray for others instead of comparing myself to them.
This Christmas season, every time I am tempted to compare myself to someone else, I'm going to stop and pray this simple prayer:
"Dear Lord, please bless ___________. Thank you for giving them beauty to share. And please help me to share the beauty you've given me."
That's it. Nothing profound or deep; just a simple prayer of blessing. But I think its effect on me might be profound.
This Christmas, rather than concentrating on how other people outshine me, I'm going to remember that we all shine because God has given us light. If someone shines more brightly than I do, that's okay. There's much darkness to overcome. Someone else's bright light doesn't eliminate the need for my little light.