Compare One Another’s Burdens

I’ve recently noticed I have a tendency to compare.

A while back I was talking with my daughter when I realized I passed along that tendency. We were comparing our lives to others. It wasn’t a comparison of our looks or clothes. We weren’t talking about how we wished we had awesome vacations like other people.  Nothing fun like that.  We were comparing burdens.  You read that right.  We weren’t bearing one another’s burdens, we were comparing them.

It sounded something like this.  “I heard so-and-so complain the other day about an ingrown toenail. She said ‘this is the WORST PAIN EVER! I can’t walk another step.’ What does she even know about pain?  She should try dislocating her shoulder and tearing a rotator cuff or living with someone in chronic pain.  Has she had a baby without an epidural or watched her husband have a heart attack?  She has no idea what real pain is!”

Okay, so the conversation wasn’t verbatim and most of those things were probably said by me, not my daughter, but you get the gist of it, right?

There’s a hierarchy of pain.  At the bottom of the scale is an ingrown toenail (sucks to be you) or an itchy scalp – unless that itchy scalp is caused by head lice, then you move up the pain scale rapidly!

At the top level of that hierarchy is unrelenting chronic pain, permanent disability or the death of a child. Serious stuff.

You better know where you are in that hierarchy or you will get NO sympathy from me. Yeah, you heard me right, lady in the grocery store who is enraged over the quality of the kale this week.  You are somewhere at the bottom of the hierarchy and need to just zip it!

Appearances can be deceiving though, can’t they?

There are some people who definitely need to put on their big girl panties and stop their whining but how can we know who that is, exactly?  Where’s our x-ray vision that gives us a peek into their hearts or their lives?

I’ve endured days and weeks of unrelenting pain and heartache and have managed just fine only to have a splinter send me into a spiral.

Pain and burdens are like snow on the roof of a house.  

One by one, the flakes fall down, lighter than a feather. They pile up on the roof and become heavy but the roof is strong and holds up fine.  Then there’s that one, final teeny-tiny snowflake that slowly drifts down, down, down…

Black and white

As soon as that snowflake hits the roof, everything caves in.  

It isn’t that the single snowflake is heavy, it’s the accumulation of millions of snowflakes that causes the collapse.

I have no idea what you deal with in your life.  You may think, by reading through some of my blog posts that you have me figured out, but really, you don’t.  I pick and choose what I will share.  Sometimes good, sometimes bad.  Most of the bad I keep to myself.  There are things that nobody knows.  Things I only share with my Heavenly Father.

I would imagine it’s the same for you. You share a tiny portion of your life and keep the rest private.

We shouldn’t think, for one moment, that we have a clue why that man is standing on the street corner begging for food, or why that couple’s teenage kids are such hooligans, or why that mother in the grocery store can’t make her kid shut up, or why the house on the corner has paint peeling and weeds growing on their lawn or why that young girl throws herself at every man she sees. Only God knows our past. Only he can see what’s in our hearts.

I love these words in Galatians,

“Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.” (Gal 6:2 MSG)

How beautiful is this?  

Restore. Avoid criticism. Stoop down. Share burdens. 

The bottom line is this. Comparison is rarely, if ever, a good thing. It presumes we know more than we do, pits us against each other and ultimately, is a thief of joy. I for one, need to do way less comparing and a whole lot more burden bearing. How about you?

low-beams with quote

(Photo by Jay Mantri)

Why Am I So Lonely? Seven Steps to Friendship

I’m lonely.

I hear this so often from women these days, especially on social media. When I hear this, it tugs at my heart and reminds me of long, dry periods of my life where I felt the same. Times when I was hungry for friendship and meaningful connections with other women but struggled to find it.

I admit it, even now there are times that I feel disconnected and lonely but it is nothing compared to my early years of motherhood when I craved a female connection that I could not seem to find.

Over the years I have learned a thing or two about friendship and while I am certainly no expert on the topic, I long to see all women enjoying the rich benefits that true friends can bring.  

Here is a list of Seven Steps I’ve found that help open the doors to lasting and meaningful friendships.

  1. Be intentional in your quest for friendship.

This is key! If you want friends, make it a priority to find them and carve out time to spend with them. I know how busy you are. I get it. But anything worth having, is worth your time.  So, get off Instagram, forget the housecleaning and call or text a could-be friend. Yes, I just gave you permission to have a dirty  house. You’re welcome.

I know. It’s hard to reach out. You risk rejection. But DO it anyway! You may have to throw the line out several times before you get a bite but you can do hard things!

Join a book club or an art class. Start using that gym membership. Get out there in the world where other women hang out!

 

  1. Lend someone a listening ear or a helping hand.

There was a time when I was so wrapped up in my own head, listening to my own fears and worries, that I didn’t really take the time to listen to those around me. I was so focused on myself and my own troubles that I wouldn’t have noticed a potential friend if she came up to me and hit me over the head!

This step goes hand-in-hand with Step #1. When we are intentional, when we truly listen, we hear other women and the cry of their heart for the same type of meaningful relationships that we crave.  Once we hear it, we can respond with an open hand of friendship instead of a clenched fist of self-pity.

Perhaps there’s someone who needs a lift to work. Maybe you know someone that could use a meal or help painting the baby’s room. An act of kindness is a beautiful friendship starter.

 

  1. Be friendly.

For crying out loud – SMILE! Let people know you want to be friends.  Not in a clingy, stalker-ish way but casually, as you encounter them in your day-to-day life.  Take the time to talk to people you encounter throughout the day.

And puh-leeze do not be that girl.  You know the one.  She’s whiny, complaining, critical, gossipy.  I know we all have our moments but girlfriend, if that is your MO, trust me…  nobody’s got time for that!

 

  1. Look for friends in unexpected places.

Maybe you’re a mom, ‘stuck’ at home with a couple of toddlers.  Maybe you’re a single business woman, devoted to your career or growing a business.  Maybe you’re retired and the kids have left home.

Who says your friends have to match you or be in the same stage of life?  Yes, there is definitely something to be gained by having friends who are walking through the same stuff – there’s a certain camaraderie that brings, but sometimes hanging out with other women with the same issues is an invitation to a pity party. All of that commiserating may leave you feeling depleted instead of filled. 

Some of my most cherished friendships are with young girls and moms. We both contribute to the friendship, just in different ways.

 

Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other, gold.

 

  1. Appreciate what you already have.

Ow!  This is something I have definitely neglected to do.  I’ve looked for friends when they’ve been there all along!  Sometimes we’re so busy looking for something that we miss what we already have. It’s easy to take the familiar for granted. Is there someone already in your life who you need to invest time with? Perhaps even someone in your family who you’ve never really cultivated as a friend. Take a look around and be grateful for what you have.

 

  1. Get out of your comfort zone.

Do any of your friends or acquaintances have different beliefs than you?  If not, why not? Do you agree with them on every topic from politics to religion to parenting methods?

This might be the scariest way to find friends but it can be so rewarding! The next time you encounter a woman with a different point of view, consider spicing things up and adding to your circle of friends with someone who will challenge your status quo. Don’t be frightened. That liberal lady or homeschooling parent won’t bite!  (Caveat – if they do, drop ’em like a hot potato!)

I love the fact that so many of my friends have disparate opinions. Sometimes our differences can encourage healthy debate but more often than not, we find we have more in common than we originally thought.

 

  1. Pray for friendship.

If your spirit has been wounded by someone you once considered a friend (oh my, how that hurts!)

If you have been friendly and open, appreciative and willing, but still feel friendless.

If you are terrified of taking that first step and being rejected.

If you just don’t know where to begin.

Pray.  

Ask your heavenly Father to heal those broken places, give you the courage to take the next step and find those friends you so desperately need.

And, if you’re in the neighborhood and looking for someone to share a coffee and conversation (and perhaps, a slice of cake), give me a call!