I shared preaching with two pastors (one my husband!) this Mother’s Day. Here’s what I said:
Theodore Roosevelt said “Comparison is the thief of joy”, and he was a man who did not try to match up his life with other’s lives. But for us as women, and perhaps especially as mothers, our lives are often filled with the noise of comparison with others and an obsessive need to be perfect. How can we begin to cut through this noise? This issue is right in the front of the brain of any woman or teenager, but it is a factor in the life of everyone who is human.
Comparison steals our joy and can rule our lives.
Why do we always feel we are not good enough? We don’t think we are:
- as good,
- as organized,
- as good-looking,
- as good of a mother,
- as good of a father,
- as hard of a worker,
- as nice,
- as educated,
- as smart,
- as young,
- as old,
- as well dressed,
- as rich,
- as gifted,
- as funny,
- as popular……
you fill in the blank.
We all constantly compare ourselves to what we observe about other people. This information often has little to do with reality, but it is the tape that runs in our heads all the time. And this tape forms how we feel about ourselves and how we evaluate our lives.
In our age of social media, we have even more opportunities for unfavorable comparisons. Everyone’s life looks better than mine on Facebook and Instagram, right?
We are all super aware of our own failings, and we see others appearing to succeed where we fail or fall short.
Putting aside outside appearance for a moment, the truth is we ARE constantly imperfect in our behavior and words and maybe most especially our thoughts towards others. We know we are not good enough for other people, and we suspect we are not good enough for God either.
We can try to talk ourselves out of this with the comfort of, “You are good enough, and you are wonderful just as you are.” For me, nothing epitomizes this message better than the women’s magazines in the grocery checkout aisle. Here’s how one woman describes it,
“I sit down and let myself sink into the glossy
comfort of my favorite magazine. With each turn of the page
I’m assured that I can have perfect skin,
that I do have the power to get any man I want,
that I if I overhaul my wardrobe I can overhaul my
life, that if I just commit 15 minutes a day to the
latest workout I can get the perfect beach body!
Apparently I can have it all… So why do I feel… hopeless?”
Somehow this message does not work for most of us. We feel we are in a prison of comparison where we are always falling short.
The Bible actually offers a whole new pattern for living which answers this craving we have to be as good as others. This new way of living is for us to create true community by being honest with each other about ourselves. Being vulnerable and open about our struggles can begin to build intimacy. And intimacy can replace this fear that we are not good enough which is the basis of comparison.
With honesty comes the realization that everyone else struggles just like we do.
Vulnerability, being open about what is hard for us, requires an atmosphere of trust and the assurance that we will be safely loved when we are honest. Do you have honesty and acceptance in a trusted community? What can you do to build this into your life?
The New Testament shows an example of community as the Christians lived together, sharing everything, helping those in need. The sacrificial love mentioned in so many places in Paul’s letters comes from this love that was not jealous and self-promoting.
Maybe this sounds good to you, but you don’t know how to go about it.
As a mother, I can tell you I love each of my children beyond their understanding, and regardless of how or whether they deserve it. If I love them this much, can you even imagine the love of God for us which is so many times more powerful? We must begin with understanding deep in our own hearts the freeing vastness of God’s love for us.
When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner reinforcement—that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ—and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled though all your being with God himself! Ephesians 3:14-19, Phillips Version
When we have let this love sink in, we can really begin to understand God’s grace in our own lives. Being loved melts our need to do more or appear better so we can get the admiration and acceptance of others.
Psalm 93:4 says, “Mightier than the waves of the sea is his love for you”
When we fix our eyes on God and let ourselves understand his complete approval of us, an approval and deep love not based on outward appearance or on behavior, then we can begin to offer grace to ourselves and to others.
That is my prayer for each of us today.