Here in the United States, we have a tortuous ritual endured by most adolescents with varied degrees of horror. You’re shuffled into a concrete-walled room with long benches and hooks on the walls, forced to undress down to your skivvies, and then made to put on the exact same uniform everyone else is wearing. It’s called the Junior High Locker Room, and Physical Education classes have long required this soul-sucking nonsense.
At the very moment you are most self-conscious about your body, you discover where everyone else is at in this journey to womanhood. And, believe me, some girl in that room has something you don’t … but wish you did. Even once you have on the P.E. uniform, it’s obvious some girls fill out that fabric better than others.
And thus launches the moment of comparison.
Now, I told this from the female point of view. But I understand that men have similar issues with this experience — noting who has the muscles, chest hair, penis size, or whatever makes men feel more like men. (I won’t pretend to fully understand.) That Locker Room can be deadly to your teenage confidence.
But you’d think we’d grow out that trap — comparing ourselves to others and make conclusions about how we’re doing. After all, we get many other messages in life that we are special, valuable, one-of-a-kind. We certainly say all those things to others, believing them fully about those others. So why do we adults still struggle with believing it about ourselves?
I hear this all the time on my blog, and let me tell you: Comparison can kill your sexual confidence. Actually, it can kill your confidence, period. But in that place where we are most vulnerable, those feelings of not enough are heightened.
Here are some examples:
- The wife who feels her physical appearance doesn’t measure up to the standards of beauty around her … so she doesn’t want to reveal her body to her husband for lovemaking.
- The husband who questions whether his penis size is sufficient to pleasure his wife … and worries throughout the experience that he isn’t enough to satisfy.
- The high-drive spouse who wonders if someone else would be a more willing sexual partner in marriage … thus comparing their mate to someone else.
- The low-drive spouse who hears about less interested husbands/wives and wishes they had a lower-drive husband/wife like that.
- The couple who compares the challenging sex life they have with young children in the house to what they had when first married … and feels cheated that sex isn’t more frequent.
- The couple struggling in their marital bedroom and presuming others have it much better and easier, and then blaming themselves, God, their spouse for their circumstances.
That’s the tip of the iceberg really. Because we compare in all kinds of ways. I do it, you do it. Let’s not pretend we don’t.
I believe it’s one of those cases of us not always being able to control what pops into our heads — comparison — but we can control what we dwell on. Whenever a false or destructive thought wiggles its way into our brain, we can choose to invite it in and give it the cozy couch treatment or eject it with all the force of a 300-pound bouncer showing an out-of-line customer the door. Our choice.
This also includes any post you read on my site where you scroll down to the comments section. People tend to comment based on where they are in their sex lives, not where you are in your sex life. My problems are not your problems, but — rest assured — we all have problems.
And honestly, comparison can kill our sexual intimacy in both directions:
- Comparing our marital bedroom to someone else’s and feeling that we’re doing worse then we are.
- Comparing our marital bedroom to someone else’s and feeling that we’re doing better than we are.
The first can produce frustration and hopelessness; the second, smugness and complacency. Neither one is good for our marriage bed.
When I looked to the Bible to see what it had to say about comparison, most of the scriptures I found involved the message: No one compares to God. Amen! But I did find a few interesting passages.
In one place, comparison is actually invited by a follower of God. It’s Daniel, when he and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah (whom you likely know as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego), were in captivity in Babylon. They were expected to eat from the king’s kitchen, foods sacrificed to idols and against Jewish law. Instead, they begged to be given a diet of vegetables. Daniel states: ” ‘Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.’ “ He is granted this test, the four friends more than pass, and the diet is altered for all in training for the king’s service to one consistent with God’s laws.
So if you’re looking for a place where comparison is reasonable, I’d say this: Compare doing it God’s way to not doing it God’s way.
This is a comparison I often make when I state with absolute certainty that sex according to God’s design is far superior to the alternative perspective the world offers. I can even make that comparison in my own life: when I was sexually sinning vs. the intimacy I now have with my husband. That comparison only fuels my commitment to continue on God’s path.
I can’t think of another kind of comparison, however, that has done me any good in my life. Especially comparing myself to others, which is really coveting:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Deuteronomy 5:21).
“You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3).
Stop coveting your neighbor’s sex life or her body or whatever else you think someone else has got going that you want. Ask God for what you need, with the right motives, and keep your eyes fixed on Him. Comparison can kill your confidence, but God can restore it.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him” (Jeremiah 17:7).