I'm a bit of a perfectionist, in case you didn't know. With so much information available to us at the click of a mouse, it can be incredibly difficult to remember that you are your own person and how detrimental comparison can be to you as an individual and to your relationships. In seconds you can learn more than ever about people you know, people you don't know, people you're like, and people you're not like. Comparison has been a problem since the beginning of time.
The tenth commandment is to not covet or envy, depending on your translation. Specifically it says to not covet your neighbor's house, your neighbor's wife, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. (Exodus 20:17, NASB)
Now, at first glance that might not seem like that's talking about comparison, but think about it.
You can't covet unless you compare.
If you're not comparing what you have to what other people have, you don't have the opportunity to be jealous of what they have.
My wonderful friend and college roommate, Kacie Lynn, wrote about comparison for the Good Women Project. She tells the story of how she became friends with her now roommate, Stephanie May, while they were on The World Race last year.
The two women are very different in many ways, but both beautiful. You could say that Stephanie fits more into the culture's stereotypical view of what is beautiful and as a result, Kacie found herself asking the question "How can I also be beautiful when I'm nothing like this girl who embodies the word?"
The Lord taught her a lot about comparison in those months overseas and she eventually came to learn this:
"Comparison almost robbed me of one of my very dearest friends, simply because I didn't know she was my very dear friend, yet. All I saw was all the ways we were starkly different, the ways I wanted to be like her, and wasn't. And the very few ways she wanted to be like me and didn't yet know how to be."
For you, it might not be that you won't befriend someone because of comparison, but that you're becoming bitter and frustrated with people you're already friends with because of comparison. But chances are, you're missing out on some valuable relationship — either completely or in depth — because instead of focusing on how you're similar, or how you can show Christ to each other, all you can see is your differences and, most likely, the ways it seems like they're superior to you.
With the exponential growth of social media use over the last few years, comparison has become so much easier and, as a result, much more prevalent in the lives of people all over the world.
That thought really struck me and I've been thinking about it a lot in the weeks since Q. Shauna Niequist recently wrote an article for RELEVANT Magazine entitled "Instagram's Envy Effect." Of social media and the internet she says:
"Some days it feels rich and multi-faceted. I learn and I'm inspired. I find recipes I want to try and stories I want to live. I feel connected and thankful to be a part of such an intelligent and creative internet community.
And then on some days, I feel like I have nothing to offer, like I must be the only one who isn't a graphic designer and hasn't yet managed to display her entire darling life online with lots of chevron and mint accents. I feel so certain that my life is a lot less darling than other peoples' lives."
And I have to admit, a lot of days I feel like that, too. Or I feel a pressure to make sure that my life seems perfect and darling. And that is the problem with using social media as the basis for how you're "measuring up" in comparison to the other people in your life — the actual daily life you live is never going to be pretty and perfect and Instagram-worthy.
But you know what? Your life isn't an Instagram feed.
Your life isn't a bunch of tweets, or pretty pictures on Pinterest, or nicely edited videos on YouTube, or status updates on Facebook.
Your life is your life. All of it. The good, the bad, and the sometimes very ugly.
The problem with social media is that it allows you to give the world your highlight reel. It allows you to show the world what you want to show them. And since everyone else has the ability to show you only their highlight reel as well, you end up comparing someone else's highlights with your bloopers and out-takes.
And you know what?
Just like you're sitting staring at your computer screen feeling completely inadequate because your life isn't all tied up in a pretty bow of mint green and chevron, that same person you're feeling inadequate because of is sitting at their computer screen thinking the same thing about someone else — possibly even you.
I admit, there are times when I'm tempted to only show the pretty parts of my life. To only show the times when I've got it all together, when things are going well and they can be tied up in a prettily designed bow and pinned to an inspirational board on Pinterest.
But that's not real life and that's not what I'm about here.
And so I do my best to share with you the pretty and not-so-pretty parts of my life. The parts of my life that are broken and hurting. The part of my life that are raw and scary. The parts of my life that I'm still figuring out. The parts of my life that I feel insecure about. The parts of my life that I don't always feel completely comfortable talking about.
I don't want you to ever think that I have it all together. I don't want you to ever think that my entire life can be tied up nicely in a beautifully designed bow. I don't want you to ever think that I don't struggle. I don't want you to ever think that I don't doubt. I don't want you to ever think that my life is only highlights. I don't want you to ever think that I've figured out this whole Christianity thing. I don't want you to ever think that I'm perfect.
And I hope that you have the courage to be transparent, too.
I hope that you have the courage to show the world more than just your highlight reel. I hope that you have the courage to not compare, to own who you are, to trust that God made you the way He wanted to make you and that He didn't mess up.
Dig into your relationships. Be vulnerable with the people you know and love. If you're not comfortable putting the not-so-pretty parts of your life on the internet for the whole world to see, that's fine. But remember that when you're tempted to compare — that everyone else has their own outtakes and bloopers, too.
And it's those not-so-pretty moments of life that truly bond us. It's those moments when we're ugly crying, or not wearing any makeup, or haven't washed our hair in two days, or bumming around in sweatpants that reveal a deeper side than just the nice pictures and words posted online.
Don't let the temptation to compare because of social media or anything else keep you from being honest, from being vulnerable, from sharing your true heart, from inviting people into your life and into your home — even on the days when the bed isn't made and you're having cereal for dinner.
Your life isn't an Instagram feed, but trust me, your actual life is far more beautiful. Bloopers, outtakes, and all.