Once during a particularly stressful time in my ministry, I found myself daydreaming about the situation of another pastor. I had taken a Sunday off and visited his church. As I was there, I found myself imagining what his weekly workload was like—his duties being far less taxing and his satisfaction level far higher than my own.
That false vision was instantly shattered when I heard of the financial challenges facing the church. I realized that not only was his work not easier, it was probably even more stressful than my own. Like most times when we compare our challenges to others, we would probably prefer to have our own instead of theirs.
The “greener grass syndrome” could be defined as the nagging sense that others have it better than us or that their situation is not as difficult as ours. This fantasy thinking can impact our marriages, where we live, what we do for a living, and how we spend our money. People in Christian ministry can be especially prone to thinking that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, or at the church in a different city.
Here are five reasons we must not give mental space to the greener grass syndrome:
1. It is never realistic — We normally see our problems as worse than they are and seldom consider the challenges faced by others. When we compare our situation to others, we look at theirs with rose-colored lenses.
2. It breeds discontentment — The Apostle Paul had learned to be content (Philippians 4:11) and so can we. Discontentment leads to all sorts of additional mental, emotional and spiritual problems.
3. It leads to grumbling — Even a cursory reading of the Old Testament reveals that God hates grumbling. Our grumbles indicate dissatisfaction with God’s provision. Comparing our lot with that of others may indicate that we don’t think God has been fair to us. We are better off thinking like the psalmist did in Psalm 16:6a, “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places.”
4. It distracts otherwise faithful ministers — Church pastors who are doing good work ministering to the congregation and impacting the community with the gospel can waste lots of valuable time by thinking about someone else’s ministry instead of their own.
5. It is never the answer to our problems — At times when I have daydreamed about someone else’s ministry as better than my own, I come back to the same conclusion: going to that church or ministry position would not solve all my problems because I would take many of my problems with me. In each case, I have needed to stay put, serve faithfully, grow as a minister of the gospel and then be ready for the next assignment when my Heavenly Father brought it to me.
Let’s band together in our fight against comparison and discontentment as we forge ahead to the ministry God has called us to. What has helped you win recently against the temptations of the greener grass syndrome?