Finding Happiness Beyond Comparison
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I dare say every person on earth could be found guilty of comparing themselves to another person out of envy, pride, or mere insecurity. These could be comparisons of physical qualities, family life, level of education, state in life, career path, or even spiritual prowess, to name a few.
As the video “Are You Happy” illustrates, the age of social media has highlighted this game of juxtaposition.
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The commentary begins by acknowledging that “as humans, we need self respect and the respect of others,” but it goes to show that this cannot be the only goal in a person’s life. If one only seeks to gain the attention and respect of those around them, it can be quite easy to get caught up in this “comparison game.”
Within this game of comparison there are only three paths: being a winner, a loser, or someone that finds themselves stuck in between.
The video highlights how being on the losing side of the scale brings a feeling of inferiority and loneliness as well as the fear of letting yourself down. Not only does this path exist, but people in this state can even go so far as to enjoy this state and be content to dwell in self-pity. Clearly, with this side of the scale being so obviously distasteful, the other side must be all the more pleasant, right? Wrong.
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While the outlook of the winner may bring happiness at first, someone of more novelty or skill will come along and draw the gaze of the easily distracted audience, and along with it goes that person’s flimsy source of happiness. “If your only happiness comes from being the best, the future holds shame, loneliness, and despair. In other words, winning is hell too.”
Then there is the third group. This is where there is a constant waffling between being somewhat a loser and somewhat a winner. In this state, everyone around you is automatically the enemy. “You are never safe to simply be yourself” because any mistake that you may make will be grounds for removal from the winner’s circle. This kind of life can only be a shallow, paranoid, and lonely existence.
The creators of the video conclude from these observations is that no matter where in the scheme you fall in this comparison game, you will always lose.
Actually, the Bible and the Catholic Church teach quite the opposite from the man-centric source of happiness. Christ proclaimed that “Blessed are you when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12). Or later in the Scriptures when St. Paul wrote, “Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church also shows that “only in God will (man) find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for” (CCC 27). As Catholics we are taught that “true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or in any human achievement – however beneficial it may be – such as science, technology, and art, or indeed in any creature, but in God alone, the source of every good and of all love” (CCC 1723).
The only way you can really win this game of comparison is to make the conscious choice not to play.
Here are three questions to reflect on:
- Have you ever found yourself caught up in this “comparison game?”
- What is the source of these feelings or actions (the video emphasizes the use of social media, but there can be many interior or exterior sources)?
- While social media seems to be a constant influence over all three groups defined above, how can you better use media to convey a more beautiful message than what it may be predisposed to display?