Comparison is the Thief of Healing

comparisonNot long ago, I had one of those extraordinary, deep, soul-stirring conversations with a friend. I don’t know if you’ve ever had one, but they are quite amazing. I was a gibbering mess of tears and snot and laughter for over an hour.  

In that conversation, I shared about some things that had happened in my life, especially over the last several months.

 

There was a point when my friend filled the space of silence with the simple compassionate statement, “Wow, you’ve really had a rough go of it.”

 

I looked away in embarrassment as I worked to shrug off the declaration.

 

My thoughts immediately swirled to friends and acquaintances that have had way worse times than me. Surely my life is easy compared to theirs. It hasn’t been that rough for me.

 

Then my attention spun to the global perspective. I don’t want to be that person who bemoans the problems of my 1st world privileged life when so many people have so much less and have it so much harder than I do.

 

But there is a problem in that “perspective.” It means I am quick to discount my own struggles.

 

Like physical pain, ignoring emotional pain won’t make it go away. In fact, it actually risks making it worse. It would be a ridiculous notion to pretend nothing has to be done to treat a deep cut because it’s not as bad as cancer. That train of thought would lead to all sorts of infections and scars. Yet that’s the outlook we frequently take with our non-physical wounds.

 

I have heard it said that comparison is the thief of joy. We do something we feel good about, but then we see how much better someone else is at that thing than we are, and suddenly the sense of accomplishment disappears under the weight of “not good enough.”

 

I don’t think joy is the only thing comparison can be accused of stealing.

 

Comparison is the thief of healing.

 

Our pain is not defined by the experiences of others. Our pain is defined by our own feelings. If something hurts us, then it is painful. Period. End of story.

 

I had to make a conscious effort to accept my friend’s statement of empathy that day. Since the conversation, I’ve had to remind myself that it’s okay that things have been difficult for me. Even if someone else would have counted themselves lucky to be in my shoes, and handled it all with grace, that doesn’t change my experiences. I have suffered hurt. And I need to seek healing.

 

We are not weak when we get hurt while someone else seems to walk away unscathed. We are not weak when we struggle under the weight of something someone else seems to handle with ease. We are not weak when we accept statements of empathy when someone else seems so much more deserving of them than we do.

 

We are strong when we face our experiences. We are strong when we admit our hurt. We are strong when we accept help.

 

Let’s not let comparison rob us of our healing.

 

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." -2 Corinthians 1:3-4

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On choosing inspiration instead of comparison

The Internet saved me this weekend. It was my son’s 6th birthday party. I needed to keep six 6 year olds entertained for two hours. It is possible that after scanning through the recesses of my imagination for ages, I might have discovered one or two fun ideas. But I have no illusions of grandeur about my ability to be fun. Honestly, I’m kind of boring.

Thankfully, there are many people out there who are more entertaining than me. As a result, the kids had a blast. They leapt over “buildings” (cardboard boxes) in a single bound, navigated through “laser beams” (crepe paper) without getting hit, and captured a “villain” (my husband) with a hula hoop.

The party was a success thanks to many people I have never met. I stand here today, grateful for Pinterest.

The Internet fills our lives with possibilities. Yet, the wonder of that often gets lost beneath our own junk.

I could have looked at the perfect cardboard buildings created by another mom and felt pressure to do the same. Comparison could have trapped me into thinking I needed to make my son’s party look the same as the ones those other kids had. But I know that’s not me. There are many, many things I would rather do than cover boxes in brown paper and cut out perfectly square windows. So I didn’t. I let my son color the fronts on buildings until he didn’t want to do it anymore. And the rest? I left blank.

My son had fun. I did, too. And I do not regret leaving those boxes plain. Not in the slightest. I know that if I had, stress would have invaded my spirit.

I am thankful that this time, I got it right. This time, I did not get sucked into the comparison trap. Too often, I have. Too often, I have suffocated under the weight of my own expectations to do everything as good as everyone else. I have failed to recognize that I am not good at everything. I have failed to see comparison for what it is: a thief.

Comparison robs us of the potential we have to inspire each other.

It steals our joy as we notice all the ways we have fallen short. It strips our energy as we waste our efforts trying to be like someone else. Comparison deprives us from reaching our dreams as we hold onto our envy of someone else’s successes.

We can rediscover the wonder of the Internet when we stop. All. The. Comparison. When we see each other the way God sees us: as creatures made in His Image, each filled with a potential and beauty uniquely our own. We are made to bless each other with these gifts we’ve been given. And often, the biggest stumbling block to that happening is our own hearts.

In order to be blessed, we need to receive each other’s gifts as blessings. We must trade comparison for inspiration.

I am blessed … by those who demonstrate the beauty that can lie within a single sentence. … by those who raise difficult faith questions even at risk being hurt by the backlash. … by those who make their homes into works of art. … by those who create music that slows down my soul and stops my breath. … by those who boldly tell stories of their past in hopes of helping others. … by those who turn ideas into movements that make the world a better place. … by those who follow God, even when He leads them through uncomfortable territory. … by those who put together recipes that make my mouth water just by looking at them. … by those who love Jesus and proclaim the Gospel without apology. … by those who write and teach and lead and craft and cook and parent and paint and tell stories and question and risk and rescue and examine and adventure and love, love, love.

Many times, you are better at these things than I am. And that is absolutely okay. Because you are you, and I am me. I can choose to let go of the comparison and hold onto the inspiration. I choose to be blessed by you.

Thank you for being you. Keep being you. Don't hold back from sharing the fullest version of you with the world. And I will try to do the same.

remember to breathe out

I have a tendency to suffocate myself. Breathing shouldn’t be complicated, but somehow it is. Somehow, I have a tendency to breathe in, but forget to breathe out.

I’m thrilled to have a guest post at (in)courage today. Here’s a snippet:

I am not good at everything. I do not think this is big news to anyone who knows me. It should not be big news to me either.

But sometimes, it is news to me. Because sometimes, I feel like I should be good at everything; particularly when I have spent a lot of time on the Internet, looking for inspiration.

Sometimes the inspiration I think I am finding online is actually suffocation.

I breathe in original craft ideas I should make, powerful writing I should emulate, tasty recipes I should cook, and stories of world travels I should aspire to. Then I breathe in again, this time fashion combos I should wear, profound quotes I should remember, educational activities I should do with my kids, and Bible verses I should memorize. Then I breathe in again. And again. And again.

I suffocate because I forget to breathe out.

Click here to read the rest.