The Joyful Pleasures and Shameful Permissions of Comparison

They say you shouldn’t compare yourself with others, but sometimes comparing is unblemished enjoyment. When your car outshines your neighbor’s, talking about cars is pleasurable, for example.


When you let people shine, they're eager to shine again.

Pleasure of comparison:

On a trip to the Middle East I saw a cardboard hut beside a rich home. That’s doubly insulting if you live in the hut. I remember living in the Hamptons where rich and famous people live and play. It was there that I discovered I can hate the success of others.

Coveting destroys joy.

When your coworker gets the promotion you wanted, it’s aggravating to talk about work. She has the upper-hand. Don’t compare-up. It’s distressing.

When you’re more successful, better looking, or more talented, comparison is affirmation and confirmation.

Comparing-down affirms, but seems childish.

Permission of comparison:

Comparison makes compromise virtue.

I allow myself an inconsequential slang like, “Damn it,” because of the words I want to say – but don’t. You would thank me for saying, “Damn it,” if you knew what I could have said.

When I compare the words I want to say with the words I actually say, I’m doing pretty damn well.

Comparison gives you permission to make choices that offend. A small outburst is virtuous compared to the last time you blew up, for example.

Power of comparison:

Let people win when they compare themselves to you. Don’t pull them down.

It’s self-defeating for leaders to outshine everyone on the team.

When you let people shine, they’re eager to shine again.

If you must outshine people, do it quietly.

  1. Don’t tweak everything. Just go with.
  2. Welcome help and input with gratitude.

People enjoy contributing when you stop diminishing their contribution.

When is comparison a good thing? A bad thing?