11/08/2013 12:16 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

How the Hidden Dangers of Comparison Are Killing Us ... (and Our Daughters): The Measuring Stick Principle

When our Hope-girl came in and sat at the foot of our bed, I knew she was looking for a way to stand.

"So what am I supposed to do now?"

I gathered her long hair in my hands, gathered her mane all in one long strand and twisted it slow, around and around, as if I could make a rope for a girl to hold on to.

"Hon, there will always be people who see the world in measuring sticks instead of in burning bushes."

"Huh?" She lets her glasses slide a bit down her nose, archs her eyebrows at me, like she needs some bridge of explanation.

"There will always be people who see everything in the world as a measuring stick of their worthiness, instead of as a burning bush of God's gloriousness.

If your life looks like a mess - to them -- they whip out a measuring stick and feel confident of their own worthiness.

If your life looks like a monument - to them -- they whip out a measuring stick - and start cutting you down for their own empowerment."

She leans over and I want to gather her close. I rub her back in these slow circles.

"The thing is, Hon?," I knead out a tight knot in her shoulder, loosening the muscles.

"The world isn't a forest of measuring sticks. The world is a forest of burning bushes. Everything isn't a marker to make you feel behind or ahead; everything is a flame to make you see GOD is here.

That God is working through this person's life, that God is redeeming that person's life, that God is igniting this work, that God is present here in this mess, that God is using even this."

Hope lays her head on my shoulder.

"Know what, Hon?"

"Walk through life with a measuring stick - and your eyes get so small you never see God."

She nods. And then whispers: "Why does anybody compare at all? Why do we do it - why do I do it?"

She exhales this sigh like she's trying to relieve the swelling in her soul.

"Oh girl -- " I want to make this all go away for her. "Remember when you guys were little? And I'd have a couple measuring sticks out when I was piecing together a quilt? What would you guys would do with the measuring sticks?

She says it slow, laying back on the bed. -- "Use them as swords?"

Exactly. Measuring sticks always become weapons.

I want to tell her, and every woman browsing through a fashion magazine, standing on a scale, scrolling through Pinterest, clicking through blogs, looking in a mirror: Every yardstick always becomes a billystick.

Pick up a yardstick to measure your life against anyone else's and you've just picked up a stick and beaten up your own soul.

Measuring sticks always become weapons. Of Self-Harm.

"Know how Dad always tells the boys when they're building something? 'Measure twice cut once.'

Well, when you're building a life? Measure yourself once against anyone else - and you cut twice: them and you."

She nods. Hope nods.

And I want to cup her aching face and every beautiful woman who feels less than or more than, every beautiful woman who feels judged, every beautiful woman who feels like a failure, who feels tired with all the measuring people up that's tearing her down. To cup her beautiful face and murmur what I know from touching my own scars:

Comparison is a thug that robs your joy. But it's even more than that -- Comparison makes you a thug who beats down somebody - or your soul.

Scales always lie. They don't make a scale that ever told the truth about value, about worth, about significance.

And the thing about meausuring sticks, girl? Measuring sticks try to rank some people as big and some people as small -- but we aren't sizes. We are souls. There are no better people or worse people -- there are only God-made souls. There is no point trying to size people up, no point trying to compare - because souls defy measuring.

You can't measure souls.

And the moment you try to measure souls -- you try to usurp God. And ain't nobody needs reminding of who it was that tried to usurp God. Measuring people is always devilish work - and carrying around a measuring stick is a bit like carrying around a pitchfork.

Hope squeezes my hand tight.

I whisper it to her like a heart's battle cry, like it could rally a generation of daughters and women and sisters:

Girls rival each other. Women revive each other.
Girls empale each other. Women empower each other.
Girls compare each other. Women champion each other.

And Hope, she smiles and she stands.

She stands.

And when she turns, just the way the light catches in her hair, she looks like every woman I've ever known -

she looks like a tree ablaze.