Comparisons are not always helpful
by Janice Ross
Suitable for Key Stage 3
To consider how comparing ourselves to others can rob us of our joy.
Preparation and materials
Have available an advertisement for Go Compare and the means to show it during the assembly. An example is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=au0Qg2QiFL0 (0.30 minutes long)
Have available the YouTube video, ‘Anything you can do I can do better.avi’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WO23WBji_Z0 (3.13 minutes long)
If possible, display a quotation by Theodore Roosevelt, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’.
Have available an image of smiling African children and the means to display it during the assembly. An example is available at: https://tinyurl.com/kpn8o38
Show the Go Compare advert.
The man in the Go Compare adverts first appeared in 2009 singing about car insurance. Since then, he has been popping up everywhere: in taxis, on advertising hoardings and even on aeroplanes. His purpose is to inform us about where we can find the best deals on everything from insurance to broadband providers.
There is such a range of prices for different products that it is a good idea to have a way of comparing all the different rates so that we get the best deal. The adverts are designed to make us smile while at the same time encouraging us to use a particular website to compare prices.
A famous American president had this to say about comparison: ‘Comparison is the thief of joy.’
If it is available, display the quotation by Theodore Roosevelt.
Theodore Roosevelt wasn’t thinking about comparison websites or comparing prices or interest rates. Instead, he was speaking about the way in which we often compare ourselves to others.
Let’s think about whether we would agree with Theodore Roosevelt by considering several statements about comparisons.
Comparison can hinder progress. We can be so caught up in another person’s achievement that we end up grinding to a halt. Think about a football field or a netball court. What happens when someone scores a great goal? Do we feel pleased? Does it spur us on to try harder? Or do we feel resentful and even plot to make the other person feel bad in some way? Does it make us feel sad and want to give up? Of course, it might depend on whose team you are in!
Comparison can hinder learning. If we envy others because they always get higher marks in tests, or because they always seem to understand what they are being asked to do, we are unlikely to ask for help and could lose a chance to learn. We might even give up trying and simply become jealous and resentful. In the end, we are only harming ourselves and our own learning.
Comparison is usually inaccurate. Often, we don’t know the whole story. We see a small part of what a person has or is. We see something that makes us feel inferior or jealous, but we don’t see what is going on in a person’s life: we don’t always see the true picture. We may feel that a person has an easy life, but perhaps we don’t see the effort that person has had to make or the mistakes and disappointments along the way.
Comparison can make us grumpy, boring and annoying.
Show the Youtube video, ‘Anything you can do I can do better.avi’.
Time for reflection
Show the image of smiling African children.
Point out that although these children have far less materially than we do, they look very happy.
Ask the students, ‘Why do these children look so happy when materially they have so little?’ Ask them to turn to the person sitting next to them to discuss the question.
Ask the students, ‘What do you have?’ and then ask them to reflect for a few minutes on the question.
When we take time to stop and think about what we have, we realize how fortunate we are.
Thank you for the many blessings in our lives.
Help us to experience the joy of a thankful heart.