“Comparisons are odious.” I thought my dad had made this saying up. Turns out, his dad used to to say it. Then I found out that it dates at least back to Shakespeare when I read Dogberry the foolish character who speaks nonsense in Much Ado About Nothing say, “comparisons are odorous.”
But why? Why are they odious? The word stems from the Latin root that means hateful. So what is so harmful about comparisons? They are part of life. It’s by comparing that we make decisions. Is this apple better or that one? Are the reviews of this restaurant more favorable or that restaurant? Will this political candidate forward my position better or the other? With the vast number of decisions we make each day (the unsourced number that floats around the internet is 35,000!) we have to have parameters to come t0 the conclusions that we do. Comparison is a key element in making those decisions.
So where is the bad part of comparing? When we compare others to ourselves we place ourselves in one of two dangerous positions. We either put ourselves in the prideful position of being better than others, or we take on the self deprecating pride of thinking that others are better than we are and we can never measure up. We look and look and scroll and look some more at others and use them as the measuring tool to see if we are ok with ourselves.
Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a nineteenth century Scottish preacher is quoted to have said, “For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely.” Christ alone is the One to whom we should compare ourselves. We must recognize that He is perfect and when we are in Christ, the Lord looks on us and smiles, “This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased.” We can lay aside to need to measure up to the Insta feeds of the most polished. We can put down the over inflated ego that comes from the self satisfied smugness of feelings of accomplishments. We can “Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in His beams. Feel His all-seeing eye settled on you in love. (and) Repose in His almighty arms.” (Robert Murray M’Cheyne)
On one of our trips we were walking though a night market in Hong Kong. Among the scarves, and shoes and fake designer watches, I found a booth that had a kitchen magnet which read, “Comparisons are odious. 比較是可惡的.” It made me realize that, while, no, my dad didn’t make up that saying, it is a wise one. It transcends time and touches hearts around the world. We shouldn’t value or devalue another human being, including ourselves, because we see them as better or not. We should continue our gaze on the One that is infinitely better.