Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” And while I don’t believe he was wrong, I do believe that comparison can also be another kind of thief; a thief of gratitude.
I think it’s rather obvious that if you’re comparing, you’re not being grateful for what you have. But let’s get a little bit deeper than that.
What I Learned In Africa
Last summer, I went on a humanitarian trip to Ghana that probably could have changed my life a lot more than it did. You see, it was my first time leaving the country, and people were warning me left and right about the depressing scenes of poverty I would behold. C’mon, though—it’s the 21st Century! I’d seen photos and videos on the Internet; I knew what I was getting myself into.
If I’m being 100% honest with you, though, it wasn’t half as bad as I pictured it. Not because the Ghanaian way of living isn’t different from ours; not because there wasn’t any poverty; but because it wasn’t nearly as depressing as everyone makes it out to be.
Obviously, I only saw one small part of Africa. But from what I did see, those people were 10 times more happy than anyone I know in the U.S. Yes, they struggle with disease, and feeding their families, and finding clean water—things that I will hopefully never have to endure—but they were always smiling and so happy to see us without a single complaint ever crossing their lips.
One evening, as my travel group sat and discussed this very topic, someone mentioned that they shouldn’t complain ever again after seeing what we did. One of our “guides” (for lack of a better term) then mentioned this quote:
Saying you can’t be sad because someone else has it worse is like saying you can’t be happy because someone has it better.
Read that again and replace the word “happy” with “grateful”.
Sometimes, when we see that someone else has it worse than us, we feel the need to deprive ourselves of gratitude because we don’t “deserve” it. I would like to argue that maybe we don’t deserve much as humans, but God certainly deserves our gratitude, no matter what our circumstances! We owe a lot to Him—especially gratitude. It’s honestly the least we can give.
What I Learned In Arkansas
There was a time on my mission when I struggled to find the good in my situation. The only thing I wanted was to come home; but thankfully (pun intended), I stayed. During that time, I got an email from my older sister that said:
Find as much joy as you can in the process. If not joy, then at least marvel at His works.
Again, replace the word “joy” with “gratitude”. If you find yourself struggling to be grateful, at least God made an awe-inspiring world for you to look at—for which there is no comparison!
What I Learned At Home
No matter the circumstances, my parents taught that you always begin a prayer by telling God what you’re thankful for. Gratitude is a coexistent feeling; whether you’re lonely, upset, excited, or content, it can still be felt simultaneously—it’s just a matter of remembrance.
My mother wasn’t much of a quote hanger-upper. But she did, however, place this one right in the entryway of our old house:
God didn’t promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, nor sunshine without rain; but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way.
If there is one person I know who could tell you about pain, sorrow, and rain, it’s my mother. Even while fighting cancer, she never failed to express gratitude for family, temple work, and her health (it was always better than expected until the end.)
When it seems just about everyone else in your life has it better than you do, I promise there is always something to be grateful for! Comparison is looking out. But the opposite—gratitude—is looking up.
What are some unique ways in which you show gratitude? Share in the comments below!