The thief of joy

The old and new bridges at Penobscot Narrows, Maine, 2012

The old and new bridges at Penobscot Narrows, Maine, 2012

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”Teddy Roosevelt

Which bridge do you like best?  Perhaps you favor the sleek, clean lines of the new bridge, and find the older one unattractive.  Or maybe you like the ornate and romantic construction of the older bridge, alongside which the new one looks bare and cold.  Regardless of your taste, you might find that one bridge suffers in comparison with the other, even though each is beautiful in its own way.

When I read the quote from Roosevelt about comparison, it had the ring of truth to me.  How many times have you known someone– maybe it was even you– who was satisfied with her paycheck until she found out a co-worker made more?  Or who loved his car, until the new model came out?  Do you know tech-loving people who are overjoyed with their new computers…until an even faster, bigger, better one becomes available?  Ever toured a fabulous home that made yours seem tiny and shabby in comparison?

During the years Jeff was in school, we had very little money.  I didn’t really mind that, unless…I WENT SHOPPING! Going into the stores filled with endless clothes and gorgeous linens and housewares, I was keenly aware of how tiny and drab our apartment was.  But when I was home, I was happy.  We had each other, our books, and our own cozy little place, and that was more than enough for me.

Wouldn’t life be happier if we could quit comparing everything from appearances to paychecks to homes to cars to academic prowess?  How much better to enjoy our differences and appreciate the things we have!  Today, I hope you will take note of the unique places, people and experiences that make up your life.  You are the only one who has that exact combination of assets.  Guard your joy!  Don’t let it be stolen by useless comparison.

I was inspired by Michael Lai’s wonderful tour of bridges from all over the world.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below.




  1. Good morning, Julia!
    I can identify with this post.
    I can also identify another bridge like the New one in your photo: The Sunshine bridge in St. Petersburg, Florida! I didn’t realize that there were others like the Sunshine bridge, but it makes sense. It seems like a good design (although I am certainly not a Civil engineer).
    But back to your point….
    I think there are generally two kinds of people: those who have “enough,” and those who will never have “enough.”
    I am happy to find myself typically in the first camp. 😊

    • Susan, I do think you are definitely in that first camp. And as an aside, it seems to me that creativity flourishes among those with the “enough” mentality. Perhaps the endless search for more is too heavy a distraction to permit imagination to come out and play.

      • That’s an interesting observation, Julia, and makes sense.
        While I had thought maybe necessity inspired creativity, it is that mindset that makes the difference.

        • As every creative person (even including J. K. Rowling) has discovered, creativity does not usually pay off financially, so one has to be in it for something other than financial gain– at least in the beginning. Thus those who already have enough (and “enough” is a totally subjective idea) have a head start on what it take to live a creative life.

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

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