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…
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?
(Photo by Jay Mantri)