Friday, February 22, 2013

Compared to her...

Compared to her…, Sophie de Witt

I was delighted to receive this from a friend for Christmas, at the time it was proving rather elusive to find and purchase. Now, you can get it easily from The Good Book Company.

I read De Witt’s previous book One to One: A Discipleship Handbook and found it thoroughly useful (hence the series through it on in tandem), so I was eager to read her second offering. De Witt takes the bull by the horns in this book and tackles one of the major issues affecting women and where they find their value and worth, introducing us to a new disease – Compulsive Comparison Syndrome (CCS). I would like to meet a woman who does not struggle with this one!

You know the thoughts that run through your mind:
  • “How does she keep so fit?” or “At least I am in better shape than she is”
  • “How does she manage to work and look after her family so well?” or “I prepare healthy home-cooked meals, we don’t eat take-away like that”
  • “She knows her bible so much better than I do” or “I don’t struggle with that sin anymore”
Sound familiar? Whether it’s about money, husbands, children’s behaviour, jobs, appearance, achievements, education, organisational skills or Christian-ness, we spend our lives comparing up and comparing down. Figuring out where we fit on the big scale of comparison is constantly running around in our heads.

She spends the first half of the book identifying the symptoms of CCS, the triggers that can cause us to think that way and how it affects our relationship with God. She identifies the cause – that we have put ourselves at the centre of our lives rather than God, for in essence everything that drives CCS is sin causing us to look for meaning and blessing in idols rather than God.

In the final chapters she clearly identifies the solution. We must restore God to the centre of our lives. Instead of looking to the things of this world for to give us significance, satisfaction and security, we must keep turning back to God for all of these things. Then she gives time to think about how we live today, in this comparative, competitive world and all the struggles with CCS that we have.

She outlines healthy ways we can use comparison:
  • Comparing our lives with Christ (yet trusting in grace continuously because our performance does not affect God’s salvation),
  • With others, with both Christians and non-Christians
the solution to CCS is not simply to stop all comparisons. It's to find blessed contentment in Christ, and practice healthy comparison. How do we know the difference? By looking at what our comparison produces. If it’s praise to God, prayer for ourselves, and prayer and practical love for others, then it’s healthy. If it’s envy, or despair, or pride, or any other symptoms of CCS, then we’re allowing something other than Christ to be what we look to for blessing. (p78)
  • With myself
it’s useful to ask ourselves: Given the particular load God has given me to carry today, have I acted for Him in all the ways I could have done? How does my day compare with the day I could have had? (p84)

I have read this book through a couple of times, and each time have been struck by it. You can read it in a few hours, but you will keep thinking about it for a long time after. I was very aware of the need to pray and ask God for his forgiveness in my struggle with CCS, yet also was reminded of the hope that there is a way forward that honours God and seeks to live a life free of unhealthy comparison with others. It gave me tools to begin to think about how to change and set out on a life as a recovering –CCS sufferer, yet I remain wary of the risks of relapse!

For those who organise such things, this would be a great book to use for any group of women, from youth group age to the more mature, in small groups, in seminars and large groups, and in mentoring. It has a wide application for many people and I can see many women benefitting from this great little book.

Note: later comment referring to this book on When People and Big and God is Small review. 


Unknown said...

Sounds like a good book to read. Thanks for the review. Will add it to my list.

Tamie said...

Hi Wendy

I haven't read 'Compared To Her' yet but we had a women's day on it which covered the material and included some of the chapters.

One of my questions as a result of that day was about how to avoid sounding like *all* we need is God. I mean, I think there's room to get *some* significance, satisfaction and security from created things or people. It's part of the reason God gives them to us - not just so we can steward them but so we can benefit from them! Perhaps it's the distinction between a good thing which is meant for human flourishing and making that good thing ultimate (an idol). Does the book address this?

Tamie said...

I should say, I thought the day (based on the book) was tremendously helpful and a number of the girls there appreciated it!

Vic Colgan said...

HI Wendy,

I read this at the end of last year and thought it was fantastic too! Promptly lent my copy away to someone and need to get it back to read again as I think its something I need to reread to remind myself to keep looking to God for my contentment in all areas. I agree that it would be great for all women to read (and in fact I think men would find it helpful too). I keep being amazed at the parallels in our reading without intention and encouraged by reviews etc and praise God for the energy he gives you to encourage others in all that you read.

Vic x

Wendy said...

Hi Tamie,

Thanks for your comments. Good topic for a women’s day!

I think the first time I read it I came away with a similar idea. Or at least my concern was, “yes I know all I really need is Christ and to find all my satisfaction, etc in Him, but how do I actually do that?” I think she does address it in the later chapters on how to live healthily rather than with CCS. I think it is that the ultimate distinction (like you say) is have whether you set that thing up as an idol, something that you seek your joy in it rather than Christ; in contrast to rejoicing in these earthly gifts as things that God has graciously provided.

Also, I think because she is dealing with comparison and the unhealthy effect that has on women, it is more the comparison factor that leads to sin in some of these areas, for how we choose to compare ourselves with others shows where our true security and significance lies. If we find joy in people and things, and can recognising the gift they are to us, I don’t see that as an unhealthy comparison, but rather something to give thanks for (noting the risk that joy in some of these things could lead to pride in ourselves).

I thought the book was great, but I think it’s a first step. It’s real value is identifying the symptoms, causes and triggers. I would have liked to have had more discussion about how to live it out daily, but I guess you can’t do everything and that will be different for each reader anyway.


Wendy said...

Thanks for your comment Anon. And thanks to you Vic for the enocouragement! Glad you enjoyed it too. I agree than men would find it useful, getting them to read it mioght be another challenge though. Let me know what else you think I need to read - although my list is alarmingly long, as always! W xx

Erin said...

Hi Wendy,

I've just read this for a book club I'm running tonight. I did really enjoy it, however had a few concerns.
In chapter 5, on cause, she quotes from Genesis 1. Then, referring to v28, she says: “To be ‘blessed’ is to enjoy significance, security and satisfaction in this world, without dilution, disappointment and death.” (p44)

My concern is that this verse doesn't actually say that this is what the bible means by the term "blessed" or "blessing", and she doesn't go on to look at the what the bible does say. She just uses this as a justification for her terms satisfaction, security and significance. Now, I am happy to go with her with those terms so far as it is helpful for what she is teaching, and what she says about them is not untrue, however I'm not convinced that this is what the bible means by being blessed, although haven't had time to take a good look.

On the same note, a few pages on she talks about satan's lies and attributes this to him “You’d know more blessing without God than you do with Him” p47. Again, I'm not sure that the bible teaches this. Certainly she provides no reference to such teaching.

It's not that I think her ideas aren't biblical, but I would very much like to have seen her demonstrate that they are. I don't think the terms she uses are ones that we see in the bible - they are more the terms that the world uses. Hence I'd like to see her show more clearly why she chose those particular terms in particular in relation to the bibles teaching.

Just a few thoughts. I did love chapters 6 and 7 in particular - just great teaching, and an excellent way to gauge how we are going in the area of contentment and comparison.

Thanks for the review - really great potted summary.