Article Feb 15, 2017

The comparison trap: Relationships and social media

I have a good marriage. We are loving toward one another, share openly about struggles, pray together, communicate, honor and generally respect one another. We are best friends—he is my dearest, greatest friend. Our marriage is good, but it’s far from perfect. We have plenty of areas where we’re consistently and constantly working to grow. But, I usually feel secure and content overall.

That is, until I didn’t and realized I’m far from above temptation.

The temptation to comparison

Social media is one area where I enjoy keeping up with my friends and family. I love viewing pictures and interacting with readers of my work as I’m able. I like sharing all that I believe the Lord is doing. I also try hard to honor my husband when and where I can—mostly as a way to let him know that he’s special to me beyond anyone else.

One summer, however, I found myself tempted to envy another woman’s relationship. It simply looked better than mine. It all caught me off guard. I’m not generally tempted to be jealous, but it was a perfect storm. I found myself longing to have what she had.

So, what contributed to this storm?

Busyness had crept into our lives, and I was not communicating as fully as I usually did with my husband. As life and busyness continued, I was unknowingly sharing with others online what I thought I had shared with my husband. All the while, we were becoming distant. So, when I saw this couple display their happiness, I became discontent. For a few hours, I felt cold toward my dear husband. He hadn’t done one thing wrong. He was just the same lovely man who sacrifices each and every day for us, but at that moment, I had forgotten.

As Joe Rigney once said at a Desiring God conference, “Envy weeps at those who rejoice and rejoices over those who weep.” My heart wept as my friend rejoiced. Graciously, the Lord opened my eyes, and I grieved over my sin and asked the Lord for forgiveness. I was able to repent to my husband over the comparison that should have never occurred. I’m thankful to know that Jesus forgives and paid for that sin.

A heart-check for social media

There will always be someone who posts pictures that make it look like their relationship is better than yours or that they are having a better time than you are. Are you ready to view it and rejoice with your friend? Perhaps you’re in a place that means it’s better to simply avoid the temptation and stay offline. Your online relationship could affect your marriage. If you’re searching for connectedness online because you’re disconnected at home, don’t allow your online viewing to be your adulterous relationship.

Love empowered by our Savior, however, is patient and kind, it does not envy or boast, it is not irritable or resentful (1 Cor. 13:4-5). Love allows us to look at the gift of others and rejoice with them. Love doesn’t compare. It emboldens us to look at the gifts the Lord has given to us and rejoice and be thankful. Christian love is remarkable in its power and application. And love helps us guard our hearts.

My online comparison stopped there by the grace of God. But, the trouble with our relationships online is that they can so often go beyond just viewing. Do you long for the “like” from another man? Do you post in hopes to get the attention of another person who isn’t your spouse? Are you emotionally attached to someone you barely know but you feel connected with because of your online relationship? Again, your online relationship could be affecting your marriage.

There isn’t anyone in the world I love more than my husband and yet it was remarkably easy to despise him in a matter of 10 seconds. The Lord is at work in our marriage, but we never want to assume we’re beyond great temptation (1 Cor. 10: 12-13). We want to live soberly, knowing that without the Lord’s grace and strength, there go I. We all must be diligent and mindful. Walking in purity takes more than simply reading, it takes action (Matt. 5:29). You can be honest about your struggle and run, the Lord has made a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13).