Someone else’s shoes don’t make the road easier

I heard about a so-called reality television show that used to be popular, one where the wives in two families traded places with each other. Wife 1 from Family 1 switched with Wife 2 of Family 2, and then some genius follows them all around with cameras to see what happened. Can you say “train wreck”? I’ve never been a big fan of those kinds of shows (or reality television in general), and I’m not even sure if it’s on anymore. But I remember hearing about it and thinking that in concept it might be nice.

I mean, getting the chance to live someone else’s life sounds appealing some days. Let’s face it. Life is tough and hard and difficult, and it feels like others have life so much more figured out than I do. So it makes sense to want to trade places with someone else, to get a chance to live in someone else’s shoes.

But is it really nice? Does it really ever turn out the way you expect? I never watched those shows, but I would be curious to know if any of those people walked away from an episode wanting to stay switched.

stairs-man-person-walkingToday’s verses are Galatians 6:4-5.

Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

I don’t know what your life really looks like. I know what it looks like on the outside, but appearances can be deceiving. You could be the most disorganized, chaotic, crazy-brained person on the planet and still give the impression that you have it all together when you’re in front of someone else. Likewise, you could look like a nutcase but have your mental ducks all in a row.

You can’t tell just by looking at someone. Sometimes you can’t even tell just by listening to them. But I guarantee that if you got the opportunity to switch places with them, you wouldn’t want to stay long.

The point is, we’re all broken. Nobody has it all together. Some people are just better at faking it, convincing people around them that they know what they’re doing. So when you catch yourself wishing you could change your life or trade places with someone else, remember that things aren’t always what they seem.

Don’t compare yourself to other people. That goes for material wealth as well as spiritual growth too. Just because someone comes off as incredibly mature spiritually doesn’t mean that you want their level of faith. I mean, it’s great if you want to have strong, unshakable faith, but that’s not something you get by snapping your fingers. Generally, you’ve got to go through a lot of pain and disappointment and sadness to be able to develop a faith that’s strong. And it’s great to want that and it’s totally worth it, but don’t deceive yourself into thinking that growing a deep faith happens easily or overnight.

So stay put. Don’t wish for someone else’s shoes. Get comfy in your own. No, your life isn’t perfect. You have challenges you’ll face and hard decisions to make, but you aren’t in your life by accident. God’s got a plan, and He’s working it out a day at a time, even (and maybe especially) when it doesn’t feel like He is.

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.

A pickle in a bowl on a table at Judgement House, NewSpring Church, Wichita, KS

How comparing yourself to others puts you in a pickle

Have you ever sat and watched someone else do your job better than you? Don’t say you haven’t because we’ve all been there. We’ve all watched someone else–someone younger or less experienced or weirder or whatever–do what we do best better than we can do it.

If you’re a performance-driven perfectionist like me, it’s mortifying. Because nobody should be better than me. If it’s my job, I should do it the best in the world.

Yes, that’s the way I think. Yes, I know it’s crazy. Yes, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery.

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. There’s always someone out there better than your best. Whether they actually are or not may be a matter of opinion, but from your perspective, some young whipper-snapper just bopped into your world and upstaged you.

So what do you do? How do you handle yourself–your identity, your life’s purpose–when someone comes along who’s better at being you than you are?

A pickle in a bowl on a table at Judgement House, NewSpring Church, Wichita, KS

A pickle in a bowl on a table at Judgement House, NewSpring Church, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Galatians 6:4-5.

Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

Did you know that you’re the only you in the whole entire universe? There’s not another you out there. So the first thing to remember is that nobody can be a better you than you–because you’re the only one in existence. God made you exactly the way you are, knew every inch of you before you were born, understood every ridiculous personality quirk before you were even aware of yourself. So whenever you hear those devious whispers that someone else is better than you, recognize them for what they are. Lies. And don’t waste any time on them.

Secondly, who told you someone else does a better job at your job than you? Is that your own opinion? If it’s your own opinion, take a moment and just be real with yourself. Are you doing your best? If you aren’t, then change. If you are, stop worrying. You can only do the best job you can do, so stop trying to do the best job your coworker can do.

Are you catching a theme here?

There’s something in each of us that demands we compare ourselves to the people around us. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know where it comes from. It’s probably pride, because we want to be able to say we’re the best.

But you can’t compare yourself to someone else.

I snapped today’s featured photo at Judgement House last night. In case you can’t figure it out, it’s a pickle. A whole dill pickle. But it’s short and squat. See, whole dill pickles are one of the best sellers at the Judgement House concession stand. They get wrapped in foil and we go through gallons and gallons and gallons and gallons of whole dill pickles every night. It’s ridiculous.

So why, when we can consume that many pickles, is there one little short, squat pickle leftover? I can only assume that it wasn’t good enough to sell. Or maybe nobody wanted it because they assumed it would taste funny because it looked different than its full-size pickle siblings.

Not to anthropomorphisize a pickle (which is precisely what I’m doing), but that’s what we do so many times with our own opportunities. We get this idea in our heads that because we look different or sound different or work different or just are different that we can’t do a job as well as somebody else who is “normal.” And that’s just silly.

Comparing yourself to somebody else is a waste of your time, your emotions, and your resources. It gets your focus off what matters–the fact that God put you right where He intended you to be.

So knock it off.

Stop comparing yourself to other people. If you’re an actor, stop thinking someone else is a better actor than you are, and just do your best. If you’re a builder, stop thinking someone else builds better houses than you do, and just do your best. If you’re a writer (yes, talking to myself here), stop comparing yourself to other writers, and just do your best.

What’s important is that you do your best to the glory of God. Period.

That way, you won’t get caught up in the drama of who did what or why or when, and you can look at what you’ve done and be satisfied. And, honestly, there’s nothing better than being satisfied with a job well done.

So the next time you feel so inclined to compare yourself with someone else, think pickles. Because even a short, stubby pickle is still a pickle.

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.