The Thief of Joy
Last week my daughter brought home her first progress report. This is the first year she’s received numerical grades and I was somewhat surprised at my reaction. They were fine, all A’s and B’s but I was concerned about where the grades came from. I also started to wonder how her friends had done. Did they have a B on their progress report? How had they done on the first reading and math test? Were their parents freaking out about the STAAR test? Instead of being glad that she wasn’t struggling, I immediately allowed my wonder, my need to compare her performance to others, steal the joy of having a happy, healthy child who enjoys school. I did a good job of not sharing all of this with her but it got me thinking about how often I, and others, compare ourselves to those around us – quite often to our detriment.
We currently live in a world that allows us to see what we assume is the truth about the lives of the people around us. Thanks to Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, etc., we can know what people are eating and drinking, what their hotel room in France looks like, and the before and after pics from #TransformationTuesday, whenever we want. Personally, I like social media. It has allowed me to keep in touch with friends I’ve made over the years who don’t live anywhere close to me. But it’s also occasionally had me second guessing myself and my life. What am I doing wrong that I can’t go for a #mani #pedi every week? Why aren’t my children always perfectly dressed and caught doing something extraordinary? Why don’t my husband and I look like we just walked the red carpet at the Oscars when we go to dinner? Heck, why don’t we go to the latest restaurant where everything is a la carte? Before I go too far down that rabbit hole though, I usually stop myself with this thought, ‘But what did they have to pay for that?’. And I don’t mean monetarily. We use different types of currency to have everything in life. Whether it’s cash, our dignity, or our time, everything we think we want comes with a price and only we can decide how much we’re willing to pay. Constantly comparing ourselves to others without knowing the cost someone else paid will only drive us mad.
Now I get it. It’s part of our animal instincts to size each other up. The lion isn’t the king of the jungle by happenstance. It has the ability to compare its agility and power quickly and effectively. In the cutthroat world we live in, we have to constantly be lions. But we don’t behave like lions when we can’t ‘beat the competition’. The lion moves on to the next prey. We sit and tell ourselves that we aren’t pretty enough, strong enough, smart enough, enough, enough, enough. And unfortunately, we often pass this down to our children like it’s a genetic disorder. But we must stop. It’s not easy, but we must be able to be okay with who we are, and the price we’ve paid. Most importantly though, you must remember that our joy doesn’t come from man anyway; it comes from knowing the Lord.
Until next time…