I’ve been thinking a lot about comparison lately. I was listening to a great podcast about mothering, when the speaker threw out this quote (I’ve heard it several times but can’t remember who said it originally):
Comparison is the thief of joy
Wow, that is so true, at least in my life.
I struggle with comparison every time I hear about the mommy wars, and the TIME magazine cover from a few weeks ago really brought this to the forefront for me. It kept bringing me back to a place of comparison with moms who are “greener” and more “natural”. I belong to a Yahoo group and a few closed Facebook groups of other “green” and “eco” ladies, who are wonderful resources when I have questions. I appreciate their knowledge and patience with my questions. I have learned so much from them.
But I also have to check my involvement with any group like this because I can easily start off on a mental trail, “Oh no, I’m not doing enough of this! I do too much of that!” Or “My kids eat this/use this/go to the potty/don’t go to the potty/sleep/don’t sleep…and that means I’m a bad mother”. I’m sure if you’re a career person, you can easily go there with your career or even your marriage.
If you will permit me to be a little spiritual here, this tendency I have to compare myself and then try to “perform” perfectly has only been calmed in the last 10 years by faith. When I was a teenager, I tried to be the perfect “Christian” and failed miserably. I had a few big wipe-outs, and there was no one around to show me grace. I compared myself to other “Christians” and found myself way, way behind. Sure, I wasn’t any Hitler, but I wasn’t as good as the people around me either. Looking back, I can see that’s where comparison gets you: a weird place where you can’t tell if what you’re doing is good or bad but you feel 100% responsible for the outcome.
I know a lot of parents feel completely lost in parenting that way. Here we are, responsible for the outcome of actual little peoples’ lives, and we have no instructions or directions except what we hear from “experts” who claim to have all the answers, even though they don’t know your child personally. In addition, you can find an “expert” who says one thing and simultaneously find another who says exactly the opposite. Who do you even believe? You will never please everyone.
I think what I was reminded of this past Sunday at church was that I am free from the power that comparison used to have over my life. It’s true that I don’t measure up, and I never will. I do not have the strength or ability to do all of these things right. Fortunately, I’m not going to be judged based on what I do. God loves me enough to have already provided perfectly for me. When He looks at my life, He sees what Jesus already did, not what I do. I told Him once that I accepted this provision, and that was it. I never have to strive for acceptance again, I never have to wonder if I am “good enough”. And because I don’t have to try so hard to measure up, I am free to pursue a relationship with Him where I simply listen to Him, ask for His help, and then react to what He tells me. Completely free of comparison or obligation. He even provides the strength and the ability when I don’t have it. This is the kind of faith that I have, and I am so thankful for it.
As I was reflecting on why I felt no need to read that TIME article, or why it is that sometimes I just click away from my Facebook and Yahoo groups for a while, I realized that it’s because I don’t need those articles or even my online friends to tell me what I am doing right and what I am doing wrong. There is only one Person that I answer to, and I need to be listening to Him. He actually does use my online (and offline) friends to help guide me, and that is a blessing! But I don’t have to try to do what everyone else says. I am free from all that.
Now, someone please remind me of that the next time I freak out about how I should probably be making homemade goldfish crackers, because the ones in the store are full of artificial colors that are probably not so healthy….