28 May 2020

Comparison Girl | Book Review, Q&A + Giveaway


Women compare constantly—on social media, in their neighborhood, at church, even in the school drop-off lane. They glance sideways and ask themselves, "How do I measure up?" All this assessment feels like a natural way of finding a place in the world. But it pulls them into feelings of inferiority or superiority, guiding them into a trap of antagonism by the enemy.

Satan would like women to strive to measure up, constantly adding to a tally sheet that can't ever be balanced. The way of Jesus is completely upside down from that philosophy. Instead, he says the last shall be first--and the greatest are those who empty themselves, lay down their lives, and serve each other.

Through conversations Jesus had and parables he shared, Shannon Popkin has created a seven-week Bible study to address this tendency to compare and judge ourselves and others. Each chapter is divided into lessons, allowing women on a time budget to read a Bible passage, engage in a complete train of thought related to the topic, and then make the content personal--all in one sitting. And the informal teaching tone will make women feel like they're meeting with a trusted friend.

Suited for both individual and group study, Comparison Girl will guide women to leave their measure-up ways behind, connect with those around them, and break free from the shackles of comparison!

Publisher: Kregel Publications
Release Date: May 19, 2020


Shannon Popkin’s latest release Comparison Girl does exactly what the cover promises: offers “lessons from Jesus on me-free living in a measure-up world.” Rather than confronting the all-too-common issue of comparison with “Just don’t do it”-type comments, the book relies on how Jesus taught. When He compared, He invited listeners to see from a new, better perspective, turning away from the I-need-to-measure-up type of comparison.

I found Popkin’s exploration of this topic to be incredibly helpful, and I had to make note of more than one thought for further consideration. It is definitely a worthwhile read. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book and the opportunity to provide an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, and all the opinions I have expressed are my own.


Shannon Popkin is a writer, speaker, and Bible teacher who loves pointing others to the truth of God’s Word. She combines her gifts for humor and storytelling with her passion for Jesus. She regularly speaks at Christian women’s events and retreats, encouraging women of all ages to put their hope in God.

Popkin is also a regular contributor for the Revive Our Hearts True Woman and Leader Connection blogs. Her articles have been published by Family Fun, Focus on the Family Magazine, MOMsense and others. She is the author of several books, including Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible, Influence: Building a Platform That Elevates Jesus (Not Me), and Comparison Girl: Lessons from Jesus on Me-Free Living in a Measure-Up World.

Popkin and her husband, Ken, have been married for more than twenty years and live in West Michigan. They have three children—one in high school and two in college.


Q: In your previous release, Control Girl, you confessed to your struggle with needing to be in control. Is it safe to assume with the release of Comparison Girl, that comparison is also a problem for you?

Yes, I wrestle daily with comparison, and I’ve noticed that my struggles with control and comparison are related. As I glance sideways, measuring myself against others, I’m often laser-focused on things that are out of my control. I wish I was tall, like her! If only my kids got along the way her kids do. Why has the Lord given her so much more wealth than he’s given me?

Comparisons such as these lead to sulking, questioning, and doubting—not entrusting myself to the One who is in control. Actually, it was the study of Rachel and Leah in Control Girl which prompted this study on comparison. Rather than pacing, fretting, and driving ourselves to outdo each other (like these Old Testament sisters did), Jesus invites us to pour our lives out in surrender to our Creator—who both fashions and leads us as individuals.

Q: How far back does your struggle with comparison go? Has measuring up and proving yourself to others been something you’ve struggle with your entire life?

My comparison problem literally goes back as far as I can remember. In fact, my first memory is a Comparison Girl story. When I was four years old, I was in church and feeling very grown up, holding my own hymn book. But then a woman from the row behind me reached forward and turned my book right-side-up. I felt embarrassed, exposed, and ashamed since the entire watching world now knew that I could not read.

It seems silly, now. Why was I so worried about being exposed as an illiterate preschooler? Yet, some of my current struggles are just as absurd. Why do I worry about being exposed as a less-than-perfect mom? Or a middle-aged woman who struggles with her weight? Or a Christian who still sins? My heart, since childhood, has been bent on perfectionism, pride, and measuring up—which has not led to great freedom and joy. Instead, it’s led to a great fear of what people think and a great dread of being found lacking.

Q: You find it ironic that we often refer to comparison as a game. Why do references to “The Comparison Game” rub you the wrong way?

It’s ironic that we call comparison a “game” since I’m pretty sure Satan thinks of it as a strategy of war. Listen to the way James 3:14-15 links comparison to Satan’s agenda: “If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts... this is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthy, unspiritual, demonic.” You can’t be jealous without first comparing. And you can’t be selfishly ambitious without glancing sideways to make sure you’re still in the lead. When we try to measure up and get ahead, we are being influenced by the world.

So, keep this in mind. If you hear some voice saying, “Look over at her. She’s so much thinner than you...” This voice is never Jesus; it’s always Satan. And if you hear a voice saying, “Look over at her. Her kids are a mess! You’re a way better mom than she is...” again, this voice is never Jesus. It is always Satan trying relentlessly to pull your attention back to this measure-up, here-and-now world. Comparison Girl is written to help readers reject what Satan has to say and learn to listen to Jesus instead.

Q: How does Satan use comparison to keep us in bondage? Why does Satan count our comparison as a win?

Satan once held rank and position in heaven, but he was discontent. He loathed being less than God, so he set out to lift himself up, saying, “I will be like the Most High.” See that comparison word, “like”? Satan’s undoing began with comparison. He had the audacity—as a created being—to measure himself against God, and because of his pride, he fell from heaven like a streak of lightning (Luke 10:18). But when Satan landed on earth, it was not with new meekness. He is a liar, and the truth has no place in him, so he lives out the delusion that he is somehow God’s rival. Today, he still roams the earth with dogged resolve to challenge God’s preeminence. And how does Satan attack God? By hurting and destroying us. He sees us as pawns to prove his blasphemous point.

Many times, we stumble into comparison, thinking only of ourselves and ignoring the cosmic battle playing out in the heavenly realms. And Satan is fine with that. He’s content to remain anonymous, whispering to us from the shadows as we glance sideways. He is equally pleased when we compare up as when we compare down; both inferiority and superiority drive us to the exhaustion of measure-up bondage. As we ignore God and fold into ourselves, we begin to resemble Satan—back when he was insisting on a higher throne. Satan counts this as a win.

Q: Women comparing themselves to others has been around since the beginning of time—we read about it frequently in the Bible—so it isn’t anything new. Has social media in recent years made comparison an even bigger problem?

For sure. I remember a time, when my daughter was a little girl and hadn’t been invited to a birthday party. It was totally understandable; this neighbor girl was a different age and had only invited girls from her class, but still it was so painful. I said, “Honey, why don’t you come away from the window...” But today, with the dawn of social media, there are so many more “windows”. With Facebook and Instagram blowing back the curtains of a million friends, neighbors, and strangers at once, allowing us to gather tangible evidence on how we measure up, it’s much harder to “come away from the window.”

And how does this anonymous measuring against each other from a distance affect our relationships? Think of my daughter at that window. After the party was over, she didn’t go running out the door to meet up with her little friend. She pulled back. Don’t we do the same, even as adults? If someone makes me feel inadequate, I pull away instead of leaning in. I do the same thing when I feel like I’m the one who’s superior and this other person is “beneath me.” Either way, comparing myself on social media causes isolation, not connection.

Q: The common response to this problem of comparison is: “Just stop comparing!” But is this what Jesus taught?

It’s very common to be told, “Just stop comparing.” However, when Jesus came, encountering people who were plagued with just as much jealousy, condescension, and shame as we are today, that isn’t what he said. Not once! There is no verse which quotes Jesus saying, “Come follow me, and I will teach you not to compare.” In fact, Jesus’ teaching often invited people to compare.

Think of the story of the Good Samaritan and the one about the wise and foolish builders. Think of the time the widow gave her two copper coins and Jesus said she had given more than anyone else. How about the time Martha was complaining and Jesus said Mary had chosen what was better? Jesus used comparison words and stories all the time. He taught a new upside-down way of comparing which stands in stark contrast to what we’re used to. In Jesus’ kingdom, the last will be first. The greatest among us is the servant of all. The one who humbles herself will be exalted. This book is a study of these upside-down comparison statements of Jesus, which teach us to live today the way we’ll wish we had on the day all things become realigned under King Jesus.

Q: Can you explain your analogy of living by the lines vs. living by the spout?

Picture yourself holding a glass measuring cup with red lines on the side. Mingled in your cup are all the things which set you apart —your gifts, aptitudes, and talents. Your personality is mixed in, along with your family background. This cup holds your life’s potential, measured out by God. Satan wants you to focus on the lines—holding your cup next to this person’s and that one’s. He says that to make something of yourself, you have to measure up—then he shames you when you don’t.

Jesus, however, turns your attention to your measuring cup’s spout, saying that you were designed—not to measure up, but to pour yourself out. And he shows you how it’s done. If Jesus had a measuring cup, it would be completely brimming full. In fact, it would be impossible to find a cup to contain his worth, which is beyond compare. But instead of concerning himself with proving his worth, Jesus, who was “in the form of God, [Jesus] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant...” (Philippians 2:6-7). In other words, Jesus lived by the spout. He emptied himself of status and poured his life out on the cross, giving his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). He invites us to follow him, pouring out what we have and who we are in service of other people. This is counterintuitive, to be sure, but living by the spout is what frees us from comparison. For when we tip our measuring cups to one side, the lines become irrelevant.

Q: How does your book take the conversation on comparison in a new direction?

I have lots of books on my shelf which remind me when I’m obsessing over how I measure up to lift my attention to what God says about me, and my identity in Christ. I’m a daughter of the King! I’m accepted. I can enter the throne room boldly (Hebrews 4:16). I already have a seat with Christ (Ephesians 2:6). All of these are true and incredibly helpful. But I’ve noticed that sometimes, after relishing who God says I am with my Bible open on my lap, I can get up and enter a room full of people and fall right back into obsessing over how I measure up. So, I wrote this book for women like me, who want to find freedom from measure-up comparison, not just alone before God, but also in a room full of people. And I’ve invited Jesus to do the teaching.

It’s interesting that Jesus—when responding to his disciples’ argument over who was the greatest—didn’t say, “Guys, good grief. There’s a throne with your name on it. What more do you want?” Instead, he pulled a baby on his lap and said, “You want to be great? Be like this baby. Be the smallest person in the room.” In other words, Jesus didn’t remind them of their identity by telling them they already were great. He told them how to be great in the upside-down kingdom. Jesus modeled this upside-down kingdom greatness by making himself small, emptying himself, and lifting up his friends as he died so they might have life. So, when I’m obsessing over how I measure up, Jesus gives me the same instructions. He says I should start pouring, not posturing. I should make myself small and lift others up. For this is the way to be free of measure-up comparison in a room full of people.

Q: What does it mean to live “me-free”? How does a me-free outlook give our differences new meaning?

When I compare myself with others, I might be looking around or glancing sideways, but my focus always boomerangs back to me. Me-first comparison drives me to constantly be absorbed with self. But me-free comparison is completely different. Obviously, the contrasts between me and others remain, but when I’m free of self-focus, those differences don’t add or detract from my value; they offer me unique ways to serve!

In his wisdom, God has tucked unique gifts into our Comparison Girl hands and hearts. He gives one more of this and another more of that. He purposefully mismatches us so that we’ll be drawn together. He fills our measuring cups with gifts that are meant for each other. As we come together and tip our cups simultaneously—each pouring and receiving—a unique unity forms. As all the gifts are both offered and accepted, we give each other a place to belong.

Q: Tell us about the “Disgust Factor Challenge.” Why does disgust have no place in the church?

The pain of feeling inadequate causes my heart to crave superiority, as if I can somehow balance things out. It’s ugly to admit, but I intuitively seek out people that I can look down upon. Then, when I find them, it feels good to voice my disgust. So, I’m disgusted with cheating spouses. I’m disgusted with dirty politicians. I’m disgusted with the woman in the express checkout who has more than twenty items. I go through life muttering, “Ugh! I have never... I would never... I could never!” But by glaring down with condescending disgust, I’m also lifting myself up. The two are inextricable.

Recently, some friends and I participated in a three week “Disgust Factor Challenge” where we held ourselves accountable to report any disgust. We were surprised at how often disgust had crept into our faces, words, and hearts—and often over nothing but an arbitrary difference, such as manners at the table, parenting style, or taking the back roads instead of the highway. Other times our disgust was pointed at people we saw as “sinners.” Yet by looking down in condescension, were we not just sinning in a different way? In the world, it feels natural to group up and decide who is disgusting and why they don’t belong. But in the kingdom of heaven, everyone belongs. Everyone is celebrated—not because we are the same, but precisely because we are different. As the Church, our goal is unity, not uniformity. If everyone was uniform, why would we need unity? Our disgust—whether over differences or over sin—is completely out of place in a group whose unity is formed by the cross.

Q: As you were writing, which chapter of Comparison Girl impacted you most?

The chapter on comparing wealth. Tim Keller says, “When you’re greedy, you don’t know that you are.” I think this is particularly true of Americans. As women with more disposable income than any preceding generation, we’ve got to consider that greed might be more of a problem than we realize. Those of us who have excess money (that’s me) often think of ourselves as blessed by God. But what if we’re really being tested by him? What if—as God pads our purses and bank accounts—he’s asking, Will you love me most? Will you worship me, not this money? Will you serve me with what you have, instead of trying to differentiate yourself so that you can “measure up”?

Studying Jesus words about camels and needles, caused me to recognize something I hadn’t considered: my wealth puts me at a disadvantage. It continually pulls my eyes back to the lines. In my jealousy, greed, and measure-up frenzy I’m actually missing out! God, who sees everything and misses nothing, will reward every sacrifice—down to a little two-cent Dixie cup of cold water (Matthew 10:42). Every time we tip our measuring cups forward and pour out even a few drops, we send treasure to the place where moth and rust cannot destroy (Matthew 6:20). I find this so motivating! I want to dream big, with eyes of faith and what God is asking me to sacrifice. Who might need what’s in my cup? And what reward might await me, when I let my generosity flow?

Q: Comparison breeds pride, yet there are different kinds of pride. Tell us more about healthy pride vs. the various kinds of unhealthy pride and how they impact our relationships.

We sometimes talk about taking pride in something. Like taking pride in our appearance or our work. This is appropriate, since as God’s image bearers, we have great worth. We matter. Our bodies and our work matter. The problem comes, however, when we turn to other people (who are also created in God’s image and who also matter) and use comparison to feed our pride.

Comparison-fed pride takes many forms. For instance, envious pride says, “I wish I was great like her.” Jealous pride says, “I’m angry because she is great.” Haughty pride says, “I’m so happy that I’m great.” Insecure pride says, “I’m ashamed because I’m not great.” Wounded pride says, “I hate being overshadowed by the greatness of everyone else.” Our pride is expressed in both longing to be first and in despising being last. Of course, comparison and inflating pride is exactly what Satan wants for us. But Jesus says that in his kingdom the first and the last, the greats are those who empty themselves out. In other words, our pride is what keeps us from greatness in the kingdom of heaven.

Q: We’ve talked a lot about bad comparison, but when can comparison be positive?

Picture yourself walking into a room of people. If you enter the room with a measure-up mindset, you’ll spend your time measuring yourself against everyone else. You’ll either fill with pride, inadequacy, jealousy, or a combination. You might start posturing to compensate for your inadequacies. You might become guarded around those who make you feel threatened or outdone. Or you might distance yourself from those who seem “beneath you.” In each instance, when you enter the room focused on the lines, you’ll keep people at arms’ length, and there’s a good chance you’ll leave the room feeling even more isolated than when you entered.

However, what if you could enter that same room of people, focused on the spout? What if you could approach others, knowing exactly what is in your cup and looking for ways to pour yourself out? What if, instead of being threatened by the gifts of others, you could anticipate receiving what’s in their cup as a gift from God? We are all different on purpose. God gave more of this to one and more of that to another, not so that we can measure up, but so that we can pour ourselves out. Picture that room again with yourself right in the middle of a cluster of people who are all pouring and receiving. Instead of isolation, there’s community! By engaging the spout, not the lines, we free ourselves to compare and explore our differences with new freedom and joy.

Q: How does “flipping the ruler” help us when we become judgmental of others?

Remember Jesus’ imagery of specks and logs? It’s comical to think of yourself not even noticing a log sticking out of your eye, but even more so when you’re trying to lean in and help someone with their speck. Specks are tiny. To measure, you’d lean in with the millimeter side of your ruler. Logs are large. To measure, you’d flip your ruler around and measure by the foot. Those of us who are judgmental or critical of other people are the ones leaning in to measure others’ flaws by the millimeter. Yet, as we lean in to judge others with disgust, our critical spirit is log-sized. It should be measured by the foot.

We tend to magnify the flaws of others and minimize our own, but when we compare down with hyper-critical judgment, we’re the ones with the bigger problem. So, the next time you’re tempted to lean in and measure someone’s mistake by the minutia, instead flip your ruler and say, “It’s such a small thing. Look how tiny it is. Look how big my arrogance is when I judge her.”

Q: Tell us more about the format of Comparison Girl and how it was designed to be used. Could the book be used in a group setting?

Comparison Girl is a Bible study which examines the conversations Jesus had and the stories he shared with people who—like us—were comparing. The study is built around the upside-down comparison statements of Jesus (such as “the last will be first”), which he often used in these stories and conversations. Chapters two through six look at various ways that we tend to compare ourselves: comparing sin, wealth, appearances, our work for Jesus, and status. Each chapter is broken into lessons which begin with a Bible passage to read and end with application questions and a meditation.

Since this upside-down life is meant to be lived in groups, not as individuals, it would be great to gather some friends and do this study as a group. Also, if you’d like to have me be part of your group time with additional teachings, please check out my Comparison Girl video sessions (they are sold separately).

Q: What final encouragement would you offer someone in the audience who may be struggling with comparison or jealousy?

You are different from other people by God’s intentional design. Anything in your measuring cup is a gift from Him. Your enemy presses you to use what’s in your cup to get ahead in the world and finally measure up; then he shames you when you don’t. But Jesus turns your attention to the spout. As you tip your cup and pour into others, the measuring stops. The measure-up lines become irrelevant. The more you pour, the more God fills your cup with freedom, confidence, and joy. This me-free living is the only way to break free from the system of our measure-up world.

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