Becoming Icicles—and Other Dangers of Comparing Ourselves to Others

09 Feb

Becoming Icicles- and Other Dangers of Comparing Ourselves to OthersI live in the Boston area, and over the past eight days, we have received over 5 feet of snow. My roof has a low-enough pitch to develop ice dams, so this year, after many years of my husband chipping away at them, he installed roof warming cables. As you can imagine, after 5 feet of snow and dropping temperatures, my roof cables were doing exactly what they were supposed to: preventing dams. But in the process, they were also creating ice stalactites that, after a few days, extended down from two stories to almost touch the ground. They were incredible, the talk of the neighborhood. People would walk their dogs by and stop and marvel at our sharp, massive ice needles. The bus driver even made comments. They were honestly the most beautiful winter “growth” I had ever watched before my eyes.

But they were also about 40 pounds by the time they were starting to weigh too heavy to remain there—and they were wicked sharp.

(If you’re unfamiliar, “wicked” is a New England adverb meaning “really” or “very.” When I first moved here from California, I misused it to the amusement of all my native New England friends: “I wicked want that.” Yeah, not the correct usage.)

These icicles took on a life of their own, that’s for sure. I know they were just water, but they felt organic. They became a part of us—well, at least part of the house. Each day, the kids would delight in their growth, but we had to knock some down over the doorways so that they didn’t impale us or the dogs as we left the house.

And I got to thinking that icicles start off so beautiful. They amaze us, and it feels like each inch growing down is achieving something magnificent. What’s more, they come from good intentions: They are evidence of a roof melting and recovering from an intense onslaught of weather. They are a thermodynamics and gravity lesson wrapped up into one.

But the thing about these massive formations is: They can’t hang there forever. They eventually thin out at the origin, the weight becoming too much to bear, and once they crash down—and inevitably, they do—they are a force to be reckoned with, damaging whatever they land on and cutting deep into the snow below, like a stake being posted in full force.

Likewise, I was thinking that our moments of little envy here, tiny comparison to others there, start off like tiny drips. It’s just water after all…can people even see it? We’re just shedding a little personal angst by thinking how someone else has it better for a minute. No harm done, right?

But then that drip becomes slow and steady, and while it appears to be evidence of a heart under thaw, it can’t really release itself. It refreezes in a different form, slowly growing to noticeable levels. Other people passing by may think: “Wow, she’s just leaking a little. That sounded a little toxic, but she’ll move on.” But, eventually, if we entertain those thoughts of how:

  • much more money this friend makes
  • that one delivered her babies by blinking while I underwent every trick—medical and otherwise—under the sun to get these kids birthed
  • none of her kids have any medical or special education needs
  • his kids always win the awards
  • running must just come naturally to her
  • her husband never has to travel

we suddenly become sharp and cutting with an icy critical spirit, bearing down heavily on those around us. We become dangerous, daggered hurt machines that speak dark instead of light, never seeing the beauty and gifts we have been given, dwelling only on what we think we want but don’t have.

When we’re living a life dissatisfied that we don’t measure up to some mythical standard we assume somebody else set, we start measuring people with the wrong gauge: what they have easier than we do. It then leads to some gossip here, a little story-sharing there. At first, it starts off pretty interesting and seemingly “innocent.” We’re just “processing with a friend,” after all. But then, if we don’t keep that in check, we become obsessive, never counting our own blessings anymore, just waiting for someone else to fail or again demonstrate success in some area whereby we, in comparison, feel less than. We start to self-justify, to settle, to become complacent, and to take a seat as self-appointed judges. We decide they don’t deserve our compassion (because, after all, we have it worse). We shut down where blessings could happen because we think we have full perspective.

And soon, our feelings weigh so heavy and our emotions so raw and on the surface, that gravity wins, and we end up sending a spike down into someone or a situation where we really didn’t mean to. Our comparisons just became too heavy to bear, and we sent them crashing into someone.

And the fallout is ugly: a wet, cold, icy shard kind of mess. We hurt people when we think the grass is greener. And aren’t we all already hurting enough?

Proverbs 14:30, ESV, King Solomon speaking
A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.

Proverbs 27:4, ESV, King Solomon speaking
Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?

The only solution I find for stopping myself from growing spiky, cold formations from my heart is to invite Jesus in to keep it warm. There are times I catch myself mid-icicle, and there are times, I do not let Him in soon enough or regularly, and then my icicles are on steroids and absolutely crash. And when they fall down, they always hit something. They never fall without consequence, even if the damage is mostly within ourselves.

What keeps your heart warm, content, and peaceful?

James 3:14-18, ESV, James, Brother of Jesus, speaking

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.

This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

James 4:6-8, ESV, James, Brother of Jesus, speaking

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded (emphasis mine).


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Anecdotal stories about an everyday relationship with God can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day (includes Book Club Discussion Questions).

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21 responses to “Becoming Icicles—and Other Dangers of Comparing Ourselves to Others

  1. tlwommack

    February 9, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Bonnie this is Wicked hood. Lol seriously you have touched on a subject that I and I am sure most everyone can relate to. Thanks for all the wonderful things you share that touch our hearts and make us think.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Devonne

    February 9, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    Love this. How true it is, how dangerous envy can be. God has made us complete in his love. A good reminder to stay warm there.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bonnie Lyn Smith

    February 9, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    Thanks, tlwommack and Devonne! I’m glad I hit on something that touched you. I am slowly working these things through in my own heart and asking God to remove unnecessary and harmful clutter there. It’s a process, but it sure is freeing and makes room for peace! 🙂 tlwommack….love your use of “wicked” as an adjective! So Yankee! 🙂


  4. Mary Collins

    February 9, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    Envy and self-comparison is one true path misery. When we are looking too hard at other’s lives we can definitely miss the blessings God has bestowed upon us. Thank you for the reminder about this dangerous trap.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Bonnie Lyn Smith

    February 9, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    Thank you, Mary. I appreciate your encouragement. It really is a dangerous trap…so true. Thanks for stopping by “Espressos of Faith!”


  6. aladyinfrance

    February 9, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    I’m from Syracuse so I know those icy stalgtites. (But those were still mighty impressive).

    What a great spiritual analogy. I can see myself doing just those things you talked about – little barbs sent out from jealousy and envy. I usually (hopefully) melt before I do too much damage, and yes – it’s always remembering Jesus that helps me to melt.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Bonnie Lyn Smith

    February 9, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    Thanks, aladyinfrance! I think we all fight this battle from time to time (or often). We’re especially vulnerable when going through a trial. I was struck by how heavy, beautiful, and sharp they were as they grew from my roof. Their beauty is deceiving considering their potential to cause harm.



    February 9, 2015 at 11:21 pm

    WOW! Those are some serious icicles!! I love this analogy, and the truth from which you write. If we trust God enough with our lives, then ultimately- we wouldn’t be jealous or compare with others because we KNOW and BELIEVE He has us exactly where we are to be. It’s hard. Oh, do I know!

    But I’m finding more peace as I get older… and more gratitude for what I DO have and who I am, in Him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonnie Lyn Smith

      February 10, 2015 at 12:16 pm

      Thank you, TheMomCafe! I agree…it does get easier with age. I think we’re so prone to this in our younger years, and honestly, I sometimes think the nuances of female communication (in middle school girls, as one example) reinforce comparisons and envy. It’s a lie women believe. Thanks for the encouragement! Here’s to fewer envy-sicles forming in our lives. 🙂 Blessings!


  9. bloggerlovestheking

    February 10, 2015 at 8:08 am

    Wow – what a comparison. I am in Texas so don’t get many icicles, but a few years back I did and they were so thick and beautiful. Took pictures but never used them in a blog. Love this.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Bonnie Lyn Smith

    February 10, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    bloggerlovestheking…what a great name! So nice to see some Texas on here. Other visitors/commenters live there as well. Send me some TX sunshine! Thanks for stopping by “Espressos of Faith!” Blessings!


  11. Amy Lynne

    February 21, 2015 at 7:10 am

    I love this analogy! I can’t but think you’re like Sam, as he loves using analogies.:) That’s one reason I love being friends with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Bonnie Lyn Smith

    February 21, 2015 at 8:12 am

    Thanks, Amy Lynne!


  13. 4gazpacho

    March 9, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    I love the word picture! That’s a potent lesson we all need.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Bonnie Lyn Smith

    March 9, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    Thanks, 4gazpacho! I’m trying to learn this as I go…how to avoid the comparison trap.


  15. aladyinfrance

    February 15, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    I love your solution. It’s mine too. Because those icicles are definitely there, threatening to get dangerously large.

    (I didn’t know that not everyone knew wicked). 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonnie Lyn Smith

      March 22, 2017 at 1:42 pm

      Thanks, Jennie! Yes, “wicked” is a Northeasterner expression I first heard in the Boston area. Thanks for visiting and reflecting alongside me!


  16. Bonnie Lyn Smith

    January 6, 2018 at 3:47 pm

    Reblogged this on ☕ Espressos of Faith ☕ and commented:

    With our current deep-freeze tundra conditions in the Boston area, I revisited this photo, and in so doing, I realized how timely the lesson was for me—yet again! Sigh. I find the struggle is real. Comparisons keep us in chains. Letting Christ define us sets us free.

    Fellow inhabitants in semi-Arctic temperatures: Stay warm!


  17. themomgene

    January 7, 2018 at 7:51 am

    Oh Bonnie I love this so much. It is so true: “we suddenly become sharp and cutting with an icy critical spirit, bearing down heavily on those around us”. Comparison does make me sharp and critical in all the places I want to stay soft. Thank you for this and for reminding me that my life is wonderful because it is mine and God saw fit to make it just as it is!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonnie Lyn Smith

      January 10, 2018 at 12:00 pm

      Thank you so much for this encouragement! I need to revisit this topic so often. It is quite a challenge to give up comparative righteousness for imputed righteousness. Thank you for stopping by!



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