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.

Is it Possible to Live Satisfied?

     Martin’s Nursery is open. Where I live this is a big deal. We get to plant flowers and vegetables making the drab, winter landscape vibrant. A trip to Martin’s is a rite of spring.

     Many make it an annual outing. I know a mother and daughter who meet there each year to pick plants for their gardens. They live in towns 120 miles apart. A friend and I often schedule a time to go together and then have lunch.

     My usual purchases include a big bucket tomato plant that is ready to produce (in the mountains I don’t have a lot of warm months to nurture a plant from a shoot), several annuals to fill pots, and a few perennials that return yearly after the snow melt.

     But this spring I hesitate. Snow, hardpacked and icy, still dominates my backyard measuring halfway up the fence. With planting uncertain, I am not sure I can keep plants healthy in my kitchen lugging them daily out front into the sunshine where the snow has receded.

     A friend gives reason to purchase. She texted to let me know she already shopped at Martin’s Nursery, afraid they would sell out if she waited too long.

     New to the area, she asked if it was okay to plant as soon as the snow melts. I texted- “Watch the weather reports. If the temperature is near freezing during the night cover your plants with a frost cloth.”

     Even with indoor options and frost cloths I have decided to wait. Take my chances. If the plants are gone at Martin’s I will look for them someplace else.

     This decision is unusual for me. I am driven by those whispers “You might miss out!” “It will be all gone.” “Get it while you can.” “Stock up so you don’t run out.” I am the hurry up type, not the laid-back type.

     Frankly I am not sure I will be able to live happily with only the perennials that return each year if I do miss out. Or with planter boxes filled with the plain petunias from Walmart. Will I be satisfied with less than what I am use to, what I expect?

     Satisfied—“pleased or content with what has been experienced or received.” (

     The synonyms string together an enticing summation of such a state: blissful, glad, joyful, thankful, delighted, happy, pleased. These are all emotions I often strive to achieve.

     But I want to dig deeper. Look more closely at this state. See if satisfaction is only guaranteed when my yard is filled with blooms and hummingbirds swooping down to draw sweet nectar from my feeders.

     Looking back at that definition copied from the dictionary it seems like living satisfied is based on our perception of an experience or something we have received that meets our expectations. If this is so, satisfaction may be erratic.

     Or it may be a carrot on a string. Something we must work for, strive for, chase after. We work toward goals that promise bliss… a master’s degree, a vacation in the Cayman Islands, the completion of one more item on our bucket list, enough money to enjoy retirement, our dream home… If only we would reach these goals, then we would be satisfied.  

     I begin my exploration. Is it possible to live satisfied or is it only for fleeting moments of time? Is it a skill to learn? 

     My first test looms. I am taking my chances on Martin’s Nursery.

Let’s Talk:

1-Please share a circumstance that was less than satisfying and how you reacted. Have you gained any insight on how to address the circumstances that stirred dissatisfaction?

2-What scriptures does the Holy Spirit bring to mind when you become discontent?

©2023 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved

Image by Pexels at Pixabay