One reason you shouldn’t unfriend someone

Monday was National Unfriend Day, which encourages Facebook users to slim down their friend list. I didn’t even realize that there was such a thing. As I was listening to the radio on the way into work (or maybe on the way home?), the radio people were talking about the types of friends they thought people should unfriend.

I get that. We all have Facebook friends who post inappropriate things from time to time, and if it’s something that you really don’t want to see, yes, remove association. But these radio folks weren’t saying to unfriend people for inappropriate photos or posts. Not even for polarizing political material. They unfriended people because of posts that made them feel like bad parents.

Whoa. What?

Okay. I’m not a parent, but I am a writer. And writers are among the most insecure lot you’ll ever encounter in life, mainly because we’re all used to being shot down all the time. But I’m friends with many, many other writers on Facebook, and I find their posts informative. And when they post that they got 5,000 words done for NaNoWriMo, I applaud them. I don’t sit back and feel terrible about myself because I only managed my 700 or so for the daily devotional today.

I don’t have kids, but I do know what it’s like to compare myself to others. And, friends, there’s no freedom in that life. Only chains.

comparison_wiseToday’s verses are Romans 9:20-21.

No, don’t say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?” When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into?

God made you who you are. He gave you the talents and the dreams that you have. He knew everything about you before your parents even wanted you. Before time began, God knew what you would love, what you would hate, and what would make you feel worthless. That’s why we have verses like these and others all throughout Scripture that say the same thing over and over again: I made you just the way I want you.

It’s easy to compare yourself to other people. Maybe that guy at work is so much smarter. Maybe that girl at school is so much prettier. Maybe that mom at the park has so many creative ideas. Whoever you’re comparing yourself to today, stop.

If you are a Christ-follower, you have one standard, and it’s not the super-crafty, uber-organized, always-put-together soccer mom on your newsfeed. It’s Jesus. You follow Him. You do what He says is right. And you give it your best for Him, whatever your best is.

Maybe one person can juggle six balls. Maybe another can only manage two. Maybe you’re normal and can only manage to carry one without dropping it. If you can only carry one ball, God doesn’t expect you to juggle 10. And quite honestly, if you know someone who’s juggling 10 balls, it’s highly likely that they’re just holding one and letting God juggle the other nine.

If you read Facebook and feel inadequate in the light of other people’s accomplishments, someone is whispering lies in your ear, and it’s not God.

Our enemy loves to use discouragement and insecurity to stop us from doing our best for God. He likes to tell us that our best isn’t enough, that’s we’ll never succeed, because we can’t perform like Suzy Homemaker down the street or John Q. Public in his corner office.

How do you fight him off then? Well, you can unfriend all the people who make you feel insecure, but that won’t solve the problem. Because the problem isn’t with Facebook, and the problem isn’t with the soccer mom. It’s in the way you see yourself.

The way you fight him off is with truth, but it won’t be of much use to you until you accept it.

God loves you. He really does. More than you understand. And He made you. You aren’t an accident. You were lovingly and carefully put together by God’s own hands, and He doesn’t make mistakes. So don’t tell Him He made you wrong. That’s what you do when you compare yourself to someone else.

You have something that woman down the street or that man in the adjoining office can never have–you. You don’t need to be anybody else but you. So stop trying. And stop putting yourself down because you don’t measure up.

Someone else probably feels the same way about you. Have you ever stopped to think why super-crafty, uber-organized, always-put-together soccer mom on your newsfeed feels the need to post about her day? Maybe she’s just as insecure about life as you are.

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Front porch pillars and the old schoolhouse at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The difference between comparison and focus

Is it wrong to focus on other people? Well … like I blogged about yesterday, it’s not a good idea to compare yourself to others around you. That’s the fastest way to make yourself unhappy. But the older I get, the more I’m beginning to think that another cause of unhappiness in our culture is that we don’t focus on people around us.

There’s a big difference between comparing ourselves to others around us and focusing on them.

Front porch pillars and the old schoolhouse at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Front porch pillars and the old schoolhouse at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Philippians 2:3-4.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

It’s so funny how the world has taken what is true in the Bible and twisted it around. You would think that focusing only on yourself and trying to make yourself happy would work. You would think that if you spent all your time and all your money on making yourself happy you would be. You’d think that if you spent all your energy in an attempt to bring yourself contentment that you would accomplish it. But the more you live for yourself, the more unhappy you will be.

There’s a little book with a funny name nestled in the Old Testament. Its name is so funny most people mispronounce it. The book is Ecclesiastes, and I promise you that if you read it, you will spend most of the time cringing. It hits hard and makes you really think about what it means to be a Christian … which is really strange because it was written hundreds and hundreds of years before Christ was born. King Solomon, son of King David, wrote this little book under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit at a time in his life when he was searching for meaning. If you don’t know, King Solomon was the greatest, most wealthy king Israel ever had. But this is what he has to say about being happy in Ecclesiastes 2:9-11.

So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.

King Solomon, the wisest and richest man who ever lived, found that life was meaningless and empty when he lived for himself. Sound familiar at all, America? I think we are there. As Americans, we have everything we could ever want. Even if our taxes are a little high and we may not agree with every political ideal that comes out of Washington, we still have some semblance of freedom. We’ve never endured real persecution. And we have everything. As a good friend of mine says, even King Solomon couldn’t run down the road and buy a hot fudge sundae.

We have computers and technology and food and cars and music and entertainment and hobbies and the list goes on and on and on. We live in a culture that urges us to get what we want whenever we want it, and even if our economy is struggling, we still buy the things we think will make us happy–whether we can afford them or not.

But are we happy? If King Solomon wasn’t happy when he lived for himself, why would we be? So what’s the answer? What did Philippians say?

Don’t be selfish. Live for others.

No, it’s not a good idea to focus on other people for your identity, for your security, for your purpose. It’s not a good idea to compare yourself to other people so you can feel better about yourself. But you can focus on other people without comparing yourself to them. You can live for other people. You can care about what they care about. You can make sure that other people have what they need to succeed. And the more you give to other people, the happier you will be.

By the world’s thinking, it doesn’t make sense to sacrifice what you could spend on yourself to spend on someone else. But as believers we aren’t called to live by the world’s philosophy, and let’s just be honest, what has the world’s thinking accomplished? Seriously?

So do something for someone else today, even if you don’t feel like it and especially if they don’t deserve it. Granted, you have to be wise, and you have to be responsible with the resources that God has given you. But that doesn’t mean we’re supposed to hide ourselves away and never interact with anyone.

Want to be happy? Want to be content? Focus on others, not to compare yourself to them but because you consider their success more important than your own. When you embrace that kind of humility, your life will be different. And so will your perspective.

Two scarlet macaws at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Contentment never comes from constant comparison

Can you be happy if you are constantly comparing yourself to other people? I can’t. But what is it about the human condition that leads us to compare ourselves to each other? Nobody has to teach us to do that. We just do it.

We live our lives and one day we meet someone who (in our perception) has something we don’t have. And that automatically means that person is happier than we are, so we compare our lives. We compare our personalities. We compare our achievements. And we compare our failures. In some cases, it ends with simple discontent, but in other cases it becomes raging jealousy.

The plain and simple truth is that our purpose isn’t to compare ourselves to each other. That’s not how a Christ-follower is supposed to live. A Christ-follower is supposed to compare themselves to God, to Christ, to live by the example He gave us. Not to live by the life of someone here we think is happy. Because I guarantee, if you pick the person down here you think is the happiest person in the world, if you really get to know them, you’ll discover that their life isn’t as fun as you think it is.

So instead of comparing our lives, which is just a distraction from the things that really matter, shouldn’t we work together?

Two scarlet macaws at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Two scarlet macaws at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Philippians 2:1-2.

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

After reading through Philippians a few times, I get the feeling that the Church at Philippi had some trouble getting along. Paul even goes so far as to call out names of people who he wanted to stop squabbling. And unfortunately, not much has changed in the Church in 2,000 years. The Church is still the epicenter of many arguments and much unpleasantness, all stemming from the fact that the believers within refuse to get along.

And from what I have seen and experienced, the root cause of why people can’t get along is that they focus on how they are different.

We focus on the differences in our life experience. We focus on the difference in our rearing. We focus on the difference of our level of education. We focus on our age. We focus on our preferences. We focus on our marital status. And we go a step further. Because someone else has money or education or Bible knowledge, we automatically assume they want nothing to do with us, and somehow we begin to resent them even though we don’t even know who they are. Or because someone is popular or well-liked in the church, we form opinions about them and don’t even try to get to know them.

And before you know it, we have convinced ourselves through assumptions and preconceived notions that we can’t be of one mind because we are too different.

But what does Philippians say? What did Paul through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit write to the people who refuse to work together?

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate?

Is there any?

Not total. Not complete. Not full. Not entire or whole or a word that indicates we have to be 100% alike.

Any.

Here’s how the Amplified Version puts it:

So by whatever [appeal to you there is in our mutual dwelling in Christ, by whatever] strengthening and consoling and encouraging [our relationship] in Him [affords], by whatever persuasive incentive there is in love, by whatever participation in the [Holy] Spirit [we share], and by whatever depth of affection and compassionate sympathy, fill up and complete my joy by living in harmony and being of the same mind and one in purpose, having the same love, being in full accord and of one harmonious mind and intention.

We aren’t supposed to be the same people. God made us different and put us in different circumstances with different life experiences so that where one person is weak the other person can be strong. But because we like to compare ourselves, because we refuse to be happy with where we are, we only see the differences. So we don’t see how our differences can make us strong through Christ.

I may have absolutely nothing in common with the next person I talk to at my church. They may be married with six kids and love chick flicks and romance novels and only eat turnips. But if that person belongs to Christ, we are family. Everything else is insubstantial in the face of our connection through Christ. Christ is what matters.

So today, if you have formed preconceived notions about another believer, get rid of them. Drop them like a rock. Preconceived notions when you don’t know someone will only do damage, both to the person you assume things about and to you. Stop comparing yourself to other people. Stop looking at other people’s lives and wondering why they deserve to be happy when you don’t. And reach out to someone you don’t know. Prove your preconceived notions wrong. I guarantee you will.

And even if the person you reach out to turns out to be exactly opposite from you, you still have one thing in common. And that one thing, Christ, can make up for everything else.