Compare to Others or Critique Yourself

I was reading through some Psalms the other day, and a specific verse in Psalm 128 jumped out at me.

“Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the innermost parts of your house…” – Psalm 128:3a (AMP)

It got me thinking… “Am I a fruitful vine in my home? What does that even look like?”

It’s so easy to get caught up in everyday life and lose sight of our priorities. It’s also easier to look at those around us (ie our spouses, kids, or friends) and see where they’re failing and falling short.

My first response after reading Psalm 128:3? I started recalling verses to husbands that I’ve stored up over time… because – even though I might need to look at how fruitful my vine is –  there are expectations in Scripture for husbands, too…

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” – Ephesians 5:25, 28 (NIV)

“May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.” – Proverbs 5:18 (NIV)

“Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun…” – Ecclesiastes 9:9 (NIV)

Suddenly, my perspective began to shift. I started wondering… Do I make it easy for my husband to love me? Is he able to rejoice regularly with the wife of his youth? Is it natural for him to enjoy life with me?

And then, just for fun, I began looking up some verses about wives. (Note: These lists are not exhaustive!)

“… a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.” – Proverbs 12:4b (NIV)

“A foolish son is his father’s ruin, and a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping.” – Proverbs 19:13 (NIV)

“Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” – Proverbs 21:9 and 25:24 (NIV)

“Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife.” Proverbs 21:19 (NIV)

“A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dropping on a rainy day; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand.” – Proverbs 27:15 (NIV)

The more I read, the more I felt like I was describing myself.

I don’t want to be quarrelsome – “ready or likely to argue or disagree; apt or disposed to quarrel in an often petty manner; contentious” (m-w.com). But I have to admit, there are times when I’m ready to argue or disagree with my husband as soon as he walks in the door. I hate to think that he would be better off in the desert or the corner of the roof than in the house with me!

I don’t want to be ill-tempered or easily angered, especially with my husband and kids. They are God’s gift to me! But oftentimes, I find myself yelling at them out of desperation.

I don’t want to be a constant drip to my husband. I don’t want to be characterized by nagging or manipulation. That is not abundant life for either of us!

I believe God brought me to each of these verses, and I’m so grateful that I didn’t end up in a place of guilt or condemnation; I felt empowered, motivated, and challenged to change.

I want to be a fruitful vine in my home – connected to my Heavenly Father. I want to be a wife of noble character – reflecting the loving character of God.

“A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown…” – Proverbs 12:4a (NIV)

“He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.” – Proverbs 18:22 (NIV)

“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” – Proverbs 31:10-12 (NIV)

What a beautiful picture these verses paint… so different than the “quarrelsome” wife. I understand it’s not an easy task. And I’m not saying I’ll ever “arrive”. But I’d rather be purposeful in being a wife of noble character, my husband’s crown, than to sit back and be like decay in his bones.

I keep thinking about my wedding vows… promises I made to my husband almost ten years ago. Vows that I wrote myself, from my heart and soul… promises that are framed and hanging in our bedroom… that I rarely ever read. There are many things I vowed and promised to do that I’m simply not doing. So I can stay where I am, or I can partner with God and change.

“I am in competition with no one. I run my own race. I have no desire to play the game of being better than anyone, in any way, shape, or form. I just aim to improve, to be better than I was before.” – Unknown

I love this quote! It’s not about being better than someone else. It’s about being better than who I used to be – whether it was 5 years ago, 5 days ago, or 5 minutes ago.

In Webster’s Dictionary, compare means: “to say that (something) is similar to something else; to look at (two or more things) closely in order to see what is similar or different about them or in order to decide which one is better.”

I don’t believe we’re called to do this to one another! God created each of us to be unique, and I don’t think it’s our job to label the similarities and differences to decide who is better.

It just sounds like an ugly trap. It sounds to me like a scheme of the enemy. If he can get us focused at finding faults in others, making us feel better about ourselves… or striving to see how much better others are, making us feel worse about ourselves… either way the result is the same. It gets our eyes off of our Creator.

When I’m not busy comparing myself to someone else, I’m freed to love them with God’s unconditional love. I can be a vessel and a conduit of His grace and mercy. I can genuinely pray for them and encourage them. I can mourn with them when they mourn, and rejoice with them when they rejoice. Why? Because my eyes aren’t fixed on myself, on comparing me and them. My eyes are right where they should be – fixed on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

Instead of comparing to others, I think we need to get better at critiquing ourselves. Healthy criticism. Self-examination. Sober judgment. Evaluation of where we are, what we’ve overcome, and who God’s calling us to be.

Here’s Webster’s definition for critique: “to examine carefully; a careful judgment in which you give your opinion about the good and bad parts of something.”

The Bible calls us to evaluate ourselves. The Word of God is our standard, our measuring stick, that we’re meant to compare our lives to. Are we measuring up? Or are there areas that we can work on? The enemy would love for us to keep overlooking those messy parts of life. But I believe that we can, through relationship with our Heavenly Father, work on those areas that might need some attention.

“Examine and test and evaluate your own selves to see whether you are holding to your faith and showing the proper fruits of it…” – 2 Corinthians 13:5 (AMP)

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” – Romans 12:3 (NIV)

“Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” – Lamentations 3:40 (NIV)

When I’m zeroed in on my relationship with God, with the One who should be at the center of my whole life… I can be a better daughter… a daughter of the Most High King. This makes me a better wife, mom, friend, etc. Instead of modifying my behavior (the exterior), my heart (the interior) is being transformed. God’s love changes me from the inside out; it overwhelms and fills me, and spills on everyone around me. I love 1 Thessalonians 3:11 in the Message: “May the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you.”

I don’t want to waste another moment comparing myself to someone else. I want to get better at critiquing myself, comparing myself to who I was yesterday. If I’m not growing and moving forward, I’m dying and going backward, or I’m sitting still and I’m stagnant. I’m called to be who God made me to be, not someone else. A race has been marked out for me to run, and I want to get to the finish line in His perfect timing.

If you’ve made it to the end of this lengthy post, thank you for your perseverance and grace! It’s my prayer today that we would discover who it is that God wants us to be. That we’d peel back another layer of the character that He desires for each of us to possess. That we’d search out His Truth – the Bible – for our standard. And most of all, that we’d draw close to our Heavenly Father and receive His love today in greater measure.

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Me and my amazing husband!!

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