Relative Thinking

July 17, 2022 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Dawn Wilson –

No matter how bad our economy gets, I’m still wealthy at my local dollar store. I can buy everything I need: food and spices, dishes, personal and home care items, cleaners, school supplies, greeting cards, socks and underwear, toys and even holiday decorations. OK, maybe I need a few more things—I can’t live without coconut milk. Or my organic almond shampoo. Or a little bling. The truth is, I’m wealthy compared to most people in the world.

This is called “relative thinking.” It’s considering one thing in relation or proportion to something else. We are experts at relative thinking when it comes to our income.

A brain scan study by Professor Christian Elger and Professor Armin Falk at the University of Bonn in 2007 showed that no matter a person’s wealth, money is “most rewarding” when the person has poor friends, peers or colleagues. In other words, the region of the brain where the “reward system” is located responded when people felt they had more than others. This “keeping up with the Joneses” (and passing them) in order to stay happy and content traps us on a “hedonic treadmill,” one sociologist says. We become the ultimate consumers.

You’ve no doubt heard “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Most of the hungry, needy people in the world would love to sift through our trash or what we ditch in garage sales. Wealth is relative because of our attitudes.

We’re also experts at relative thinking in regard to our time. Think about it. Five minutes of a preschooler’s tantrum feels like infinity compared to the 10 minutes of peace that follows in “time out”. When we’re children, we can’t wait to be driving, married or in a career. Then, when we’re hobbling on a cane, we wish we could run with our grandkids. Watch the clock’s minute hand crawl by as you wait in a doctor’s office. But go to an amusement park and you’ll wonder where the hours flew. Time is relative because of our attitudes toward it. And so is our appearance. Fat is beautiful in Africa, but in Europe, trim is in.

Unfortunately for many people, spiritual life is also relative. Some chat with a giant in the faith and come away feeling like spiritual wimps. Others swell up with theological arrogance around those who are “new in the faith” and spiritually ignorant. Again, comparison at work.

My personal prescription to cure “relative thinking” is embracing God’s wisdom. It’s His perspective I want, not my own faulty, relative thinking. God says we are unwise to compare (2 Corinthians 10:12). He is more concerned about our hearts than our bank account or new wardrobe. God looks at our choices to see if we are focused on eternity.

Proverbs 4:7 counsels, “wisdom is the principal thing” (NKJV). Wisdom is learning to see life from God’s point of view, and that “life” includes our attitudes, finances, marriage, parenting, spiritual growth—everything!

The next time you pass a dollar store, remember how wealthy you are. Glance at your watch and ask God to help you redeem the time. Look in a mirror and remind yourself that God sees the heart. But most of all, thank God for transforming your thoughts and giving you wisdom’s perspective.

About Dawn Wilson

Dawn Wilson (; www.heartchoicestoday.blogspot;—co-author of LOL with God: Devotional Messages of Hope and Humor for Women—writes for Christian Examiner and two national ministries. She equips women to make godly choices, and encourages evangelical women in leadership. She delights in God, her husband Bob, three granddaughters, and a pup named Roscoe.
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