The Link Between Comparison and Covetousness

When I became a writer, I expected the writing life to be one of endless hours of inspiration, typing words on paper to create articles, essays, and the pages of books. My desk would be placed in front of a window with a view, preferably of the ocean.

Where did I get my ideas of the writing life? Reading about the practices of published authors. Somewhere in the pages of a book written by Joan Didion I discovered she would take a break during the day to garden, but otherwise writing was not mixed with loads of laundry and dashing to the store for groceries. It was dedicated time. If I remember right, she would read passages to her husband, who was also a writer, to see if she had captured a feeling or clarified a point she was trying to make. Uninterrupted hours at my desk, this is what I wanted in my writing life.

Scrolling through photos of workspaces, I note my favorites. Roald Dahl had pictures and papers tacked to a bulletin board and scraps of art sketches on a wall. His desk seemed to be covered in small objects he collected, such as seashells, so he wrote seated in an overstuffed chair with a big board for a desk across his lap. E. B. White wrote at a small, wooden table next to a window that overlooked a lake. I like a good view of some sort, either scenic beauty out the window or created on walls with photos, paintings, and keepsakes.

I so easily slip into comparison, scrutinizing my schedule and workspace against those of famous authors. I want what they have.

We are told not to compare our writing with others, especially those more advanced. To think our work is “not as good” is harmful. We become discouraged and find it difficult to do our best writing as we look at our meager words next to the author we admire. But comparison can do much more than stifle creativity, it can plant seeds of envy in our heart. It can create a desire for the publishing accomplishments and recognition another author has achieved. We begin to covet the writing life of another.

We often think of covetousness in terms of possessions but it comes in many forms. Adam and Eve coveted God’s knowledge and Cain wanted the recognition his brother Abel received from God.

I think I mentioned before that I am studying the 10 commandments this summer. Number 10 addresses covetousness with this commandment.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” Exodus 20:17

The word “anything” comes at the end which makes a short list all-encompassing. I focused on writing, but the temptation to compare ourself to others comes with any endeavor. Musicians, graphic designers, athletes, mothers, teachers, architects, engineers, etc. can all be tempted to look at others and want their perceived success.

To follow this commandment we can learn, like Paul the Apostle, to be content in all circumstances. (Phil 4:10-13) We can do our best and know that it is enough. When we are satisfied with what God has ordained, we live the just right life.

©2023 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved

Let’s Talk:

1-When you are tempted to make comparisons what Scripture helps you avoid the behavior?

2-What does living satisfied look like? Offer a description.

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