affair recovery · spiritual growth

When Comparison Met its Killer

Comparison dug its teeth into my heart. The irony of what I was experiencing was not lost on me, but it didn’t minimize the effect of the downward spiral of emotions I was feeling.

FullSizeRenderA couple of weeks ago I was invited to speak at a women’s coffeehouse event at a church in Phoenix. The woman planning the event has hired a coffee vendor with a cappuccino truck. She recruited two musicians to play acoustic guitars and sing cover songs, and I will have the incredible opportunity to speak to the women as they sit outside under white lights. The event is shaping up to be quite Pinterest worthy. The woman hosting is working hard to create an event that will be appealing to women who may not attend the church, as she has encouraged women to invite their friends.

After praying and considering how to approach the women, I felt the Lord leading me to talk about the destructive power of comparison. It was being confirmed in conversations and in the quotes to which I found myself drawn.

“Comparison is the thief of joy” -Theodore Roosevelt

I made plans to meet the woman at a bakery halfway between our neighboring cities to go over the coffeehouse event.  As I was getting ready to meet her, I thought again about the overarching theme I would present. In my mind, I reviewed my outline:

INTRODUCTION:

  • Quirky monologue; mention the irony of attempting to live a simple life with the pressures of Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest looming on our ever-present hand held computer screens.
  • Mention the pressure placed on young moms to make frozen Popsicles from organic vegetables and to take a picture of their child eating the treat in the backyard under a tee-pee that they will construct themselves out of fabric ordered from a third world country.

COMPARISON IS A KILLER:

  1. Comparison kills a person’s self worth:
    • Comparing our inward sinful thoughts to someone’s outward righteous behavior.
    • Self is lost to other.
    • Self becomes impossibly never good enough.
    • Eventually self is the the thing to be despised.
  2. Comparison kills creativity:
    • What might have been a brilliant idea is scrubbed away by fear.
    • Unique and different is sacrificed on the alter of similarity.
    • New ideas which lead to newer ideas which could lead to even newer ideas are lost before they are born.
  3. Comparison kills relationships:
    • Stop being different.
    • Be like me, dammit.
    • You’re doing it wrong.
    • You can’t sit with us.

I began to ponder the similarity between caparison and jealousy. When we compare ourselves to another human being we are essentially admitting that there is a part of us wishing we were more like them and less like ourselves. Wishing to have similar character traits of another person is not bad, because our focus is not on the person, but on the character traits. If I look at the joy I see in a friend, and I don’t see the same joy in my own life, I am faced with choices. I can look for ways to incorporate that joy into my own life, or I can make excuses as to why she has an easier time having joy because of her circumstances.

  • If only my child hadn’t died
  • If only my husband hadn’t been fired
  • If only I hadn’t screwed up my life

Translated in the language of comparison we are saying =

  • She doesn’t know real grief
  • She doesn’t understand financial hardships
  • She thinks she is a better person because she makes different choices than me

And, as if that’s not a bad enough translation, let’s take it one step further =

  • God took my child
  • God didn’t come through for my family
  • God hates who I became

I stated in a previous blog, Greedy with Love, my belief that there are many things we can be greedy for. After posting that blog I received emails corroborating my opinion that we have a bigger problem with greed than most of us would like to admit. Furthermore, I believe Greed and Jealousy are not only related but they may actually be fraternal twins! The two attributes are so similar in the way they affect us emotionally and in the way we are tempted to respond.

To properly break ties with greed we embrace generosity. It is impossible to be greedy and generous at the same time. The more we give away the less we will fear losing. We hold on tightly to the things we fear losing. When we give away the thing we fear losing we are actually giving away the fear of losing it. If we give away money, we won’t fear losing money. If we give away love, we won’t fear losing love.

I began to consider the notion that the key to ridding oneself of jealousy and comparison may come in the same fashion. To be free of jealousy and comparison we need to generously celebrate the accomplishments of others. By doing this we would be free of the negative feelings we were attaching to their achievements.

I added GENEROUS CELEBRATION to my mental notes.

  1. Celebrate Publicly
  2. Celebrate Privately

I was careful to hold tight to the importance of celebrating people both publicly and privately. Both have a place in people’s lives. There is a place for publicly voicing praise, just as there are times when a private email or a hand-written note is spot on. Give complements where they will best fit, but make sure they come from a spirit of generosity. Give of yourself.

And then this happened: Republican

As I prepared to walk out the door for the meeting, I was met with a reminder that caused me to be flooded with sadness over the life I lost because of my sinful choices. Family felt unreachable. Friendships felt distant. I felt alone. That isn’t a new feeling, it just comes on stronger at times. This time when reality hit home I found myself comparing the consequences from my sin with the consequences my affair partner did not face. Triggers were around me and I was reminded again that the way it played out for me was painfully different than how it played out for him.

Here I was preparing to meet with a woman and pitch an idea about the importance of not comparing and I found myself paralyzed in the land of jealousy over what this other person didn’t have to endure.

I don’t think there is any possible way to tell the next part of the story in a way that is interesting. What it involved first was confessing my struggle with the woman I with whom I was meeting. With tear-felt honesty I shared with her how I was struggling with the very thing I planned to share with her women. She listened and encouraged me. I promised her that I would pull myself together before I spoke to her women. She smiled and told me she had no fear in having me come to speak.

After my meeting I made a phone call to my daughter and poured out my heart. She, too, listened and encouraged.

The next part was a muddled two and a half hours of me sitting on my front porch and watching the birds. And praying. And crying. And watching the birds again. And praying some more. And crying again. And watching different birds…or maybe they were the same ones. And finally…after what felt like hours (because it had been) I picked up my notebook and reviewed my notes. Everything was in place, and yet none of it was working. And then it hit me. This is a spiritual battle. Battles for the soul require different weapons.

3. Celebrate Intimately

There are times when what we feel is so intense the best place to deal with those true emotions is with the One who understands our hearts without casting judgement. We cannot always reign in the frustrations we have with the situations we find ourselves in, especially if they are of our own hand or if they are attached to strong feelings of real injustice. In these times we can still celebrate the good that is happening in the lives of otherswith the One who loves everyone involved. We can’t always send a message to someone to celebrate the way that person is being blessed, but we can bend a knee and celebrate the provision and protection in their lives as a reminder of another way the Lord is good. The goodness in their life is a reminder of His goodness.

Every single one of us has the same chance and the same opportunity to live a Pinterest worthy life in the life we live on the inside. And, without comparison, this is the life best lived.

Community · spiritual growth

Greedy with Love

Women_with_umbrella_(1875)_by_Claude_MonetThe man was hungry.

Or maybe he was thirsty and wanted money for vodka. Maybe he wanted money to buy something else altogether, there really isn’t any way to know for sure. The cardboard sign that he held said he was hungry, so most likely his hunger was real.

We saw him sitting on a two foot wall along the outer perimeter of a Denny’s restaurant. He was near the parking lot where we had parked, and most of us had looked at him quickly and then looked the other way.

It was years ago, my husband, my children and I were walking into the restaurant with a group of college people from our church when we passed the man seeking financial assistance. I don’t remember if anyone from the group gave him a dollar or two. What I do remember is my youngest son, who was in the third grade at the time, turned and asked if he could give the man some money. My son had his own wallet, he had some dollar bills, and he wanted to help.

I told him he could help the stranger, and I inwardly prided myself for the child I was raising. “Look at my child, he’s so loving and generous.

I watched as my son opened his wallet and gave the man ALL of his money. He had over twenty dollars in his wallet, and it had taken him a few weeks to save the cash. The pride I had felt at being influential in my son’s generosity came spiraling down when my own heart was quickly revealed. I spoke without thinking, “Wait, son, what are you doing?! You’re giving him ALL of your money?!”

“Yes,” my child replied. “He doesn’t have any money for food, and I don’t need money. You will buy me food.”

I was embarrassed at the way I had responded, but I wasn’t totally surprised at my shameful reaction. At the time I hadn’t considered myself greedy, but this was before I had witnessed God reveal his nature through His steadfast safety-net of provisions. Since then having opportunities to give have brought me a long way, but recently I realized I still have a long way to grow.

Greed: noun \ˈgrēd\  a selfish and excessive desire for more of something than is needed

Claude_Monet_-_La_Corniche_near_Monaco_(1884)It struck me as I read a a friend’s reply to a comment I had left on her Instagram. My Insta-friend is doing something truly remarkable with her time and her resources. She is a single woman with a young-adult child, and in this new season of her life she has dedicated herself to helping orphans in Kenya. After two short term trips with her church, she made a return visit last summer during which she worked with a local pastor. Together they gathered the people and resources to start an orphanage for eight boys who were living on the streets.

Since that time she has returned to America and continued doing the work needed to sustain the undertaking. Last week she posted a picture on Instagram where she spoke of her upcoming trip. She is returning to Kenya for 45 days. When I saw the post and was reminded of the sacrifices she is making, I had to applaud her publicly. I had to speak life into her. Simply put, I had to tell her how proud of her I was. I left her a comment telling her just that. She responded, “Wow, thank you SO much. Your words mean a lot to me.”

That’s when it struck me. She said my words meant a lot to her, and I understood the depth of what she was saying.

Through this time of public shame, I have learned to value public affirmation, as well as private messages of encouragement, like I had never valued them before. I have a greater understanding of how the right word said at the right time can inspire unlike anything else. Her thankful response made me realize I had given her that same gift which I value.

But along with the gift of today, I saw the greed of my past.

  • Monet_-_Frauen_im_GartenI have spent too many years reluctant to fully embrace and acknowledge the accomplishments of other women.
  • I have missed out on too many chances that I could have shown abundant and public appreciation when I witnessed a woman who was bringing beauty into the world.
  • I have wasted too many opportunities withholding affirmations in the lives of other women.

I have spent too many years being greedy for the thing that I have always wanted.

Greed isn’t just about money.

If there is something we are holding back from giving to another person, there is a strong chance it is because we fear we don’t have enough of it in our own lives. We seem to understand this fear when it comes to money. I am beginning to see that it is not just about money. Greed is when we hold too tightly to the thing we desire the most and fear not having enough of.

  • We can be greedy with our affections. We hold back from initiating human contact–while (ironically) craving connection. We hold ourselves back from giving that which we may not receive in return.
  • We can be greedy with intimacy towards our husbands. We avoid eye contact during sex, but then we look for romance in a movie or a book. We desire something more than just the physical act of sex, but we hold tightly to the intimacy required for true marital romance, as if we will lose what we give away.
  • We can be greedy with our affirmations to others who are gifted–especially if their gift mirrors our own in some way. We fear someone else getting more attention for their talent–as if there won’t be enough left over for us.

And this is where we can learn from the simple, yet deep, thoughts of a third grader. We can give it all away, because our Father will give us what we need.

“Life engenders life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.” -Sarah Bernhardt

We can give away the thing we desire most because we trust God’s nature and His steadfast safety-net of provisions will never be limited to the financial aspects of our lives. Philanthropists have testified that a person grows less greedy in financial dealings by being generous with their resources.  Wouldn’t it follow suit to trust God with things that money can’t buy?

Perhaps in the giving away we receive more. Perhaps we require less. Perhaps it is both.

Monet_-_Das_Mittagsmahl