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Home > A Note for Tonya: CompARROGANCE – The Comparison Trap

A Note for Tonya: CompARROGANCE – The Comparison Trap

by | Dec 4, 2021

On a recent Sunday, my friend and pastor shared another one of his many powerful messages.  The focus of this message was centered on living a life where kindness and generosity come naturally. Not only do I follow along in the listening guide and “fill in the blanks” of the printed outline of the message, but every week I also find myself making even more notes in the margins-quotes, words and phrases that stand out, and the parts of the message that most resonate with me. On this day, I wrote the word COMPARROGANCE.

“CompARROGANCE”:  Compare + Arrogance= CompARROGANCE

I think that one of the reasons it caught my attention is that as we find ourselves at the end of yet another year, it is so easy to compare 2021 to 2020, or any other year for that matter. Given the significant events which occurred throughout 2020, it is not surprising we are dealing with a multitude of fears that carried over in to 2021, and we seek to find reassurance wherever we can. We compare our victories and success, and we compare the challenges and struggles. We create a type of measuring stick in our minds, wouldn’t you agree?  Of course, one of the biggest problems with that imaginary measuring stick, is that we can always find a way to compare one thing to another.

Do you ever find yourself comparing yourself to other people? Comparing your life journey to that of someone you know? Of course, you do; you’re human. You and I have lots to learn from other people, and yet there is a world of difference between tracking with others to grow, learn, empathize, or celebrate versus tracking with others to see how we, or our lives stack up. One is at its core healthy, the other, destructive. In the second scenario, comparing to see how our situation stacks up is a trap, and becomes a prison cell that keeps us from achieving our true potential.

Somebody once said that comparison is the thief of joy. In other words, if you’re always comparing yourself to other people, then you’ll never be happy. Comparison with others often leaves us with an empty feeling in the pit of our stomach at the unfairness of life and its gifts. It is perhaps, the most foolish human activity of all time- and yet all of us have been fools.

For our friends who are on a journey with ALS, it can happen quite often. An ALS diagnosis is traumatic for every single family member. It’s not fair; it’s not deserved, and why are many others spared? An ALS diagnosis can come at different ages and at different stages in life, and each ALS experience can look very different in both symptoms of progression and in the timeframe.  All of these could be compared to someone else. Enter COMPARROGANCE.  Comparrogance involves observing, assessing, evaluating differences and it quickly leads to a value judgment that produces one of two outcomes: 1) arrogant superiority, or 2) envious inferiority. Comparisons can make it very difficult for us to empathize with another person’s situation-believing it isn’t as bad as ours; and discounting someone else’s pain.

So how can we learn more humility?  We can learn it from anyone and anywhere, and it’s an open book!  Seriously…

  • Keep a physical notebook, phone, or alternative communication device handy. Whatever your method, take notes when you have lunch with someone, attend an ALS workshop, or listen to a presentation. Glean insights from others.
  • Recognize when you are most susceptible to comparison. You will likely see that the pattern of comparison is most distressing when it closely reflects something that you value, or something that you think others value. Note those values so you can see it in black and white and assess whether you think they are true or not. When and what triggers you most?
  • Practice self-compassion. Your feelings are OK, whatever they are. There is nothing wrong with any emotion! Let’s not add shame, guilt, or criticism to our natural desire to compare. The trick is to see it for what it is, a way that our brain likes to work out how we’re doing. It is not always the truth and not always useful and that is why we need to evaluate it.
  • Consider other perspectives. When we evaluate the truth in our comparisons, remember we are seeing only one perspective. Think of it like the camera on a laptop for a virtual meeting, it only shows the background you choose it to show, you don’t point the camera at the messy desk or messy floor, the dirty clothes pile on the corner. We only see one perspective when we look at the lives of others; we never really know the whole picture. People’s lives can be just as complicated as yours, don’t oversimplify.
  • Take Action. Try using comparison as a guide for what you want to do, achieve, and be. Use it to inspire you towards your goals. Action is how we move forward, simply watching from the outside is not. Remember…Impossible is an opinion. Living your life in the direction that you want to, and on PURPOSE, will make comparison much less important.

-Tonya Hitschmann, Director of Community Programs

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