Birds on a Wire: The Gifts of Comparison {Day 16}

by | Oct 16, 2013 | Uncategorized


Growing up, I often felt like the girl standing on the outside of the plate glass window peering inside with my nose pressed on the glass; hands cupped around my eyes for a better look. I couldn’t figure out how to get inside of the masses and still be myself.

It was comparison that motivated me to look past my circumstance and dream of a better life.  Comparison wasn’t limited to an unrealistic measuring stick, but rather a portal of possibility and potential I was unaware existed.

As a latch-key kid growing up with a single parent during the era when divorce was different, not expected, I learned what it meant to live with a perceived limp like a bird precariously balanced on a wire. I perched myself wherever I went and watched and watched and watched.


On shopping outings, I observed the reactions of people when approached by kindness and anger, how children respond to the reactive frustration of their parents during begging fits; the way deception looks normal on everyone. All seated on the cold floor under makeup counters while my mother gleaned beauty tips.

During schoolroom adolescence, I learned about my friend’s parents by the contents of their metal lunchboxes sprawled out on long lengths of tables. Homemade sandwiches wrapped like waxed paper gifts were to me, the message of thoughtful kindness, not expected.

On sleepovers, I was a sponge soaking up family dynamics. Taking account of the vast differences between my solitary upbringing and the curious chaos created by kids who took love and rivalry for granted.

Instead of balancing the scale of my identity, comparison was a looking glass, a new clearing through the overgrown weeds of bad choices I was living with.


Now, when I am tempted to place myself in the muck of sediment left in the pot after I’ve simmered in the glory of your gifts, I compare myself with God’s greatness.

He created beasts of the field and beside them the birds of the heavens dwell singing among the branches. From His lofty abode he waters mountains like I water plants and the earth is satisfied. (Psalm 104)

In that perspective, I shall be a satisfied bird resting on the laurels of mountains and watch and watch and watch.


What does comparison communicate to you?


rb31daysdeepbutton2Join us in the comments and for further discussion at Redemptions Beauty Book Club on The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown as we let go of certainty and comparison this week to cultivate intuition, faith, and creativity. This is day 16 of 31 Days of Letting Go in the Deep End. Find out more here and join us for daily posts delivered to your inbox by adding your email address to Subscribe in the sidebar. It only takes a few seconds and it’s painless, I promise.




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  1. Elizabeth Stewart

    It was different back in the day to come from a broken home, we were the rarity, while a child living with their two, still married biological parents is the rarity today. You captured some of my childhood feelings and experiences with your words today.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m glad to know that Elizabeth, wasn’t sure if anyone would get this.

  2. Jillie

    Comparison communicates futility to me, Shelly. It doesn’t do anything to change what I perceive my life to be when compared to the more exciting lives of others around me.
    Your writing today touched a nerve in me. I clearly recall having sleepovers at my best girlfriend’s house. There was drinking going on, yes, but I was used to that. Yet, her family had fun together, all gathered around their kitchen table in their too-small kitchen, or out in their back yard. They kidded one another. They hugged and kissed one another. They hugged and kissed me! That, I wasn’t used to. I found myself wishing for all the world that I lived in her family, not my own. Her family was stable. Mine was anything but. And yet, now, years later, she tells me they had their own set of problems. Nothing is ever what it appears to be, I guess.
    All my life I’ve compared, wishing for things that aren’t really there. Always wanting to be someone else…anyone else but me. That is futile. So, I think I’m finally learning to be satisfied, grateful even, for the life I have now. The Lord has been so good to me and I am not in want. I have all that I need. Maybe not all that I want, but certainly all that I need. My life is stable, finally, and that’s what I wished for as a young woman. There’s a lot to be said for “normal”, “consistent”, “PEACEFUL”, amen?

    • Shelly Miller

      Futility is a good word Jillie. I think I realized that when I compared myself as an adolescent, it oddly motivated me to dream. Now comparison is completely futile, a downward spiral of sadness.

  3. David Rupert

    In this world of blogging and Christian communication, comparison is a spector that many of us can’t run from. Male bloggers are kind of a minority — and arent read or commented on nearly as often. For male egos, that’s a tough thing to deal with at first — until you figure out it’s for God’s glory and you just do what’s right, regardless of the applause.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’ve thought about this often David, how few men blog or find the kind of chatter that women have come to expect in their comments. I’m curious why more men don’t blog. And I can imagine how you must have felt, especially starting out in this crazy blogosphere. Glad you decided to hang in there. God often convicts me about why I’m doing it, more than once a day.

      • David Rupert

        It’s almost humorous at times. I think female bloggers should make it their mission of encouragement to reach out to male bloggers with good words.

  4. Lisa

    The beauty of your insight shines brightly, just as the account is searingly sad. Deep sadness reformed, transformed through faith often shines with stunning luminescence.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m touched by your comment Lisa, read it three times. Thank you.

  5. DeanneMoore

    It’s hard for me sort out what “comparison” means to me. As an identical twin my earliest memories revolve around those around me trying to decide which name to put with me. I think both of us have struggled with comparison over the years. I wonder how this life of comparison that I have lived with my sister has informed the rest of my life? We walk around sporting the same DNA but we aren’t the same; yet we are so much alike. Of course, it doesn’t matter as much at this point in the journey…at least I don’t think it does? Her road is hard right now, and often I find myself dreaming for her…I think that is a beautiful thing…I wonder if she dreams for me…

    • Shelly Miller

      Love your perspective as a twin Dea, makes me think differently about comparison. But then again, most of your comments make me think in a good way.

  6. Janet

    I love to observe people. Sometimes I can see what a person is going through, like cancer or anger or hurt. I sometimes pray for them, sometimes talk with them. Comparison is a word that might seem negative, but observation is removing yourself and your own feelings from what you see in others.

    • Shelly Miller

      I think the gift of discernment has been cultivated for me through years of quietly observing people interact. I like what you say about the difference between comparison and observation Janet.

  7. Kris Camealy

    Comparison is usually poison to me. When I have compared myself in the past, it has often been from a dark place of being prideful about what I have. I hate that part of my past and now try constantly to avoid that at all cost. Comparison can be a motivator, but for me, it is a dangerous territory that opens the door to my root sin, which is pride. I hate to even admit that, but that’s the ugly truth. I appreciate your words, shelly. I find this post to be a bit haunting, with an undercurrent of sadness, but not a hopeless tone… beautiful redemption here.

  8. Leigh Kramer

    This is such an interesting perspective, Shelly. Envy and comparison have long been my greatest struggles (hallmark signs of being a 4). Part of the Enneagram is finding the gifts in our weaknesses so this is exactly what I’m working on right now.

  9. Ashley Tolins Larkin

    I love your voice here. It stirs something deeply. Comparison chokes me. It stifles me. It causes me to be ungrateful, self-pitying and then self-hating. It’s ugly stuff. That image you create of the satisfied bird is such a great one.

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