Back in the fall (when I first started this post), my college girlfriends and I were reading and talking about Jen Hatmaker’s book For the Love (via Voxer). It covers lots of great topics – like raising Jesus-loving kids and leggings as pants – but, in particular, it sparked a lively conversation among us about comparison. The subtitle of the book is: “Fighting for grace in a world of impossible standards” which spoke straight to my standards/ rules-loving self. But, to be honest, I didn’t really think comparison was much of an issue for me. Sure, I envy the beautiful moms of Instagram with perfectly curated wardrobes, spotless homes, and all the time in the world to do crafts with their kids and throw elaborate parties as much as the next person; but I know that Instagram isn’t the whole story, and I’ve pretty well accepted the “I can do anything but not everything” mantra for this season of life. However, as my friends and I chatted, I realized that there are some areas where I really struggle with comparison.
I hadn’t thought about it in this way before, but my friend Lea pointed out the story of Saul and David in the Old Testament (Stick with me here, I promise not to get too preachy.) Both men had humble beginnings but were ultimately anointed by God to be great Kings of Israel. The Bible tells us they were also both really good looking and strong military and political leaders. But, in 1st Samuel 18, Saul became jealous of David.
6 When David returned from killing the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, playing songs of joy on timbrels. 7 The women sang as they played, and said, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” 8 Then Saul became very angry. This saying did not please him. He said, “They have given David honor for ten thousands, but for me only thousands. Now what more can he have but to be king?” 9 And Saul was jealous and did not trust David from that day on.
Up to that point, things were going pretty great for Saul. He was well respected and admired by the Israelites and had defeated many of their enemies. War was HIS THING. He was good at it. But, when David came along and got all the attention for killing Goliath (more attention in fact for that one victory than Saul had gotten for all his before that), Saul couldn’t handle it. That was supposed to be him. From then on, he lived in a state of comparison and devoted his time to tracking down and killing David. He was so angry and jealous that he couldn’t even see all the great things God had called him to; and, in the end, he killed himself.
Admittedly, this example is a bit extreme; but, it shed some interesting perspective on comparison for me…
Ultimately, I realized that it is easy for me to NOT compare in areas like cooking/having amazing dinners on the table every night, being crafty or “Pinteresty”, or being bomb-shell beautiful because these are areas that I’ve already decided/accepted are not priorities or strengths for me. I’m totally OK with not being the best in those areas. (More on that in this post.) Even things like the amount of time I spend with my kids (working vs. stay-at-home) are *usually* not big issues for me because I’ve always been a working mom, and I’m confident that that is where God is calling me right now. I know I wouldn’t be my very best if I was at home all the time.
HOWEVER, the areas where I DO find myself comparing and feeling insecure are things like sticking to a good schedule/routine and “having my stuff together,” keeping my house clean and organized, hosting or entertaining regularly, and being able to manage a lot of things on my plate at once. The common denominator between these things is that all of them are areas where – at some point or another – I HAVE been good at. I have found identity in being organized, being able to manage a lot on my plate, having a spotless home, and being a good hostess.
When I really think about it, it makes sense that these are the places I tend to compare myself to others. No one has ever praised my ability to throw chicken and cream of mushroom soup in the crockpot or complimented my lipstick shade (not one single time), but there have definitely been seasons of my life where others acknowledged my organization/cleaning/hostess/multitasking strengths. I received positive attention for those things, and that attention was – certainly – internalized. As a result, even now that my life is significantly different, I still wake up every Monday morning thinking: THIS WEEK WILL BE BETTER. THIS WEEK I WILL GET BACK ON TRACK, and I still feel a pang of “I’m not measuring up” when I see other women who seem to be managing their laundry, to-do list, and dinner guests just fine.
Are these bad things? Not at all. Is that attention bad? I don’t think so. But, is finding my identity there dangerous? It definitely is.
Those things don’t define me. Part of being a grown-up and, more importantly, being saved by grace, is acknowledging that things change. Those are good and fine things to care about, but they do not make me ME. Only God makes me valuable/worthy/good.
I don’t know why exactly, but, somehow, realizing where that comparison comes from and WHY I compare myself in some areas and not in others was helpful in starting to break that cycle. Making that list was actually a really good exercise for me, and I strongly recommend it if you’ve never thought about it. Heck, if you want to share your list in the comments, I’d love it!
In the meantime, have a great Monday. Show yourself some grace today!
P.S. GOOOOOO Tigers!!! Can you even believe Clemson is in the NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP?!? Are you watching tonight? I’m already planning a late afternoon Starbucks run so I can stay up!