Is Comparison the Thief of Joy?

There were two moments in 2017 where I didn't know if I was living real life or if I was having an out of body/this is too good to be true - experience. #1 on the list was asking Katie to marry me a little over a month ago, but #2 was staying at the base of this mountain..

IMG_9086.JPG

Literally thought I was taking pics for Apple's new MacOS.. Check out Medicine Bow National Forest if you're ever in Wyoming!

One of best friends Zach Dunn (pictured far left) and his dad Rick (Lead Pastor at Fellowship Church in Knoxville) let me squeeze in on a road trip to remember back in August. Zach was moving to Portland, OR to pursue music, work for a creative agency, and help in a church plant at Spring of Life PDX.

The fact that I even got to go was a logistical miracle at my job at the time, but I was so thankful to have been able to leave for a week and drive with them from Knoxville to Portland. Yeah, DRIVE to Portland. We drove the 2,200+ miles in about 4 days, and thankfully I flew back, but some the sights I saw on the way out were breathtaking..

A little back story, Zach and I have been friends for about 4 years or so now. We met playing basketball wearing the same Carson-Newman shirt at a random church pickup game in Alcoa, TN. From there, we gelled over music, making videos (see this gem of a Star Wars battle), video games, and eventually just nights where we'd hang out and have deep talks about our lives. Zach has an incredible story of adoption (see his spoken word shared at Fellowship Church) that I can't say that I understand, but it's something I know has fueled his journey and ambition. 

Zach is an incredibly fun guy to be around, and if I'm being honest, he's someone I admire. He's true to himself and a true creative. And that's what this blog is about today. Zach is going to share some thoughts we both have on being a creative in 2018. 

 

Here's Zach:

Surrounded by a creative world where the only thing that matters is your final product and nothing else, the phrase by Theodore Roosevelt always has me thinking—Is comparison really a thief of joy? 

It’s been a little over 4 months now that Adam and my dad dropped me off 2,200+ miles away in Portland, Oregon from Knoxville to embark on one of the biggest journeys in my life. Within those 4 months, I feel like I’ve been advancing at such a rapid pace in all areas that I might’ve well been here for a whole year already! The church is still continually growing, Amplify (the creative agency I work for) is doing well and starting strong, and my music has been the biggest out of all three! 

I can’t go into the whole explanation of the opportunities I’m getting yet, but short version: I’ve been able to get really well connected with top level artists and producers who have so graciously been willing to help me navigate through the right channels to get where I wanna go in music which is my long term goal. I didn’t know why God placed on my heart the call of Portland back in March of 2017, but as my time here goes by, I can see His hands largely at work and I’m consistently blown away. 

Despite everything that is going on and all the positives, I’ve come to realize the thing that disarms me most from attacking everything I want to are comparisons.

Despite how well our church is doing, some other church is probably doing better. Amplify has been so great but how do we get to be the best in Portland and get a bunch of clients so we get paid? Best just means better than everyone else, right? And in music, for the longest time my entire drive was based on two things: 1. Use lyrics to tell people things I couldn’t say with conversation otherwise and 2. Be better than anyone I know. 

In a world of music (which is my main knowledge base), it cannot be financially viable unless you have people who like your music and support/follow you. Like, you could be the best singer out there and if no one cares or follows you then you won’t be able to sell and make money from your skill. 

It’s a brutal world where artists just want expression but have to acquire popularity to do it.

It becomes so incredibly easy to want what other artists have because if you just had that one thing then all of your dreams could be true. I’ve wrestled with this because while it gets in my head easily, I usually didn’t mind it because I would rationalize that it drove me to be better and work harder to achieve whatever comparisons made me jealous about. But I’m going to argue it doesn’t. 

Comparison is a motivator for envy. 

I’mma wake someone up with this but I believe an argument can be made:

Envy is Satanic. 

Kinda intense right? Is envy a sin? Yeah, sure, but is it Satanic? Sounds crazy with that phrasing. The word’s connotations feel cult-like, but I see words and places as colors, so I just see a lot of darkness and red when I read that. The connotation is intense! So let me say it again: 

ENVY IS SATANIC. 

Envy is something we so easily blow of as minor thing. “Oh I want that person’s connections” or “Man, if only I had the stuff they had” or “if I was as popular as them”… idk the list can go on. 
The reason why I say envy is satanic is because the definition of “Satanic” is: 

Satan-like or possessing characteristics of Satan. 

Remember the fall of Lucifer as an Angel from Heaven? He was largely two things: 

  1. Prideful 
  2. Envious of God’s Power

As a result of his heinous sin against God, Lucifer was banished from living in heaven (Isaiah 14:12). He became corrupt, and his name changed from Lucifer (“morning star”) to Satan (“adversary”). His power became completely perverted (Isaiah 14:12,16,17). Satan is envious for your soul because he knows you ultimately weren’t created for him. 

 Envy is one of Satan’s main motivators and we’re so nonchalant about it when we do it.

So how do we go about it then besides God’s grace? I would argue that envy is a chief inhibitor and competitiveness is a chief motivator. Competitiveness drives someone (usually in athletic senses) to be as good as they can, where as envy drives someone to jealousy. So I would challenge you to focus your attention and mind away from comparative envy’s and center it internally into competitiveness while trust God.

An example:

Competitiveness means getting into the gym every day, getting up shots, working on ball handling and footwork like your life depended on it, and working nonstop to be as skilled as you can. Envy would be: I can’t work hard because I don’t have as nice equipment. Or “if only I had the stuff NBA player’s have (i.e. ball guns, private gyms, assistants, the nicest of the nice, etc.)”. 

How do you think they got there? They put in the hard work. 

In music, competitiveness for me is everyday spending time writing words, perfecting my flow as much I as I can, producing every beat to be as correct as I can make it down to the slightest delays, and being as much of a student of the culture as I can so I can grow and learn - because in the end, that’s trusting God will provide. You can only do so much on your own. In fact, I would argue you can’t do anything alone. I want to do everything I can to be the best I can be because I know that even then, it might never be enough and God may call me to a different path.

Envy would be: “I would be great if I had whatever “x” musician had.“ 

Lastly, competitiveness can be so positive when it’s amongst other people in the same field. Because you’re both challenging each other to get better out of respect/love and it’s not malicious. It’s like meeting your best friend on the court. You wanna win no doubt, but it’s not because your envious or hateful towards them. You’re just competitive and they will be too. 

So in the end, was Teddy right in saying comparison is the thief of joy? I would argue comparison isn’t a thief of joy but it leads to it. Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He tries to do so in our relationships, our fields of work and passion; in all aspects of our joy and lives. Next time you’re feeling envious of someone else, one of the things I like to do is take the focus off that person.  Then I put the focus on myself and I only compare me to my past self. With this change is aspect, I realize not only how I’ve grown myself, but I also get a clear view of how God is working in my life. I see his fingerprints in everything. It allows me to be reminded that in everything, I can trust God. Satan’s attack is redirected into praise for God and I love it. 

With the turn of the new year just a couple days behind us now, I’m so excited for 2018. I’m so excited because I don’t think I’ve ever had a year as life changing as this one is proving to already be. And the best part is, none of it is because of me. 

Follow Zach, his shenanigans and his music at @iambranded_
Check out his latest album PRTLND on Spotify

 

Wow. Zach.. So good, brother. What a beautiful contrast of what it means to be creative in a world where we need to have popularity and support in order to continue our craft. No lie, I struggle with envy everyday. As a wedding videographer, I envy those with better equipment, or "bigger" weddings and paychecks. But I love that Zach reminded me that we only need to compare ourselves to ourself. If we're better than we were the day before, all else will come in God's timing. 

I wanna thank Zach for his time and thoughts on a topic we share; being a creative. Zach's gonna be standing alongside me in my wedding in May, and I'm so thankful for his friendship. Cheers!

 

Peace and love, 

-ac