"If I'm honest, I always compare the worst parts of myself to the best parts of others," my friend, Wendy, said during Bible study years ago. She spoke this profound statement with such humility that I almost didn't glean the pure wisdom it offered. With time its words penetrated the deepest parts of my soul. Wendy shared about comparing the not-so-pleasant aspects of her inner life to the pristine perception she had of other people. Of course, those compared won the competition they didn't even know they were part of. I remember Wendy's words because she brought a voice to the game I played without even being aware of it.
The game goes further than that, though. The deck is shuffled and the cards are dealt when we get together with our girlfriends. As the conversation turns to things our husbands do, we begin looking at our hand, trying to decide if what they're saying trumps what, or who, we have.
"I can't believe Roger put my dry-clean-only blouse in the wash," Judy complains, while everyone else thinks, Roger helps with the laundry? I sure wish my husband did, even if he ruined a few shirts here and there. Without a spoken word, a winner—and therefore a loser—is declared.
The problem with this game is that when the other women get home, they often become agitated with their husbands.
"What did I do?" one husband inquires after his wife, Mary, snaps at him.
"Nothing," she retorts, meaning, "You do nothing." And then she secretly adds in a whisper so quiet she convinces herself that she didn't even think it, "If only you were more like Roger." The irony is Judy is talking to Roger, except she's wishing he were more like Mary's husband.
Determining the winners . . . and the losers
In a day when kids play games where everyone comes out a winner, we find ourselves succumbing to one in which no one wins: the one of comparisons. John Hamel said, "Comparison leads to pride or intimidation." This is true even in our marriages. When we compare our spouse to someone else, we walk away proud of our husband if we decide he is the winner . . . or intimidated, frustrated, and upset if we don't.
Our spouse can feel intimidated if we nominate someone else as the winner. He might not even know we played a game or that he lost, but he'll feel the result all the same. If we aren't careful, we start treating him with contempt and disdain as we wish the parts of him we see behind closed windows were more like the pristine exterior of a friend's spouse.