Within the past two years I’ve been made aware of how much I’ve been stuck in a battle between pride and insecurity. Of vanity and a lack of self esteem. It’s a battle that I lose regardless of which side I land on. Because neither are where I want to be, or where I’m meant to be. I had a hard time grasping onto an understanding of how I can struggle with such opposing attributes. I couldn’t understand how to address my pride when on the other end of the spectrum I also needed to address my insecurities. And it wasn’t until more recently that I realized that my sin goes deeper. That it’s more complicated than simply being conceited or lacking confidence. It’s because of what I measure myself to. It’s because of a competition I’ve created between myself and the rest of the world. It’s because I compare everything I have, and everything I am, to everything else.
I’m not sure when it starts. When do we learn to try to “keep up with the Joneses”? Or do we even learn it? Is it a part of our human nature to look at what other people have in comparison to what we do? I sure feel that way sometimes. Maybe it’s just me. But maybe not.
Our appearance, our homes, our relationships, our experiences, our clothes, our stuff, our whole lives too often get rated in relation to someone else’s. Sometimes we “measure up” and have the better of the bunch. We’re above the rest. We’re encouraged because we’re coming out on top (Enter in the foothold for pride & vanity. Other times we miss the mark and what we have isn’t good enough. We feel like we’re losing (Enter in the foothold for insecurities and low self esteem).
I don’t know about you, but comparison wrecks my heart. It either lessens the worth of me, my life, and all that I have been blessed with. Or it inflates my head into a pompous attitude. Either I’m not good enough, or I’m looking down on others because I let myself believe that what I’ve got is better. And both leave me frustrated, ugly, broken, and hurting. It’s the kind of broken that I’ve felt on those mornings when none of my clothes look good, my hair does everything that I don’t want it to, and my tired eyes can’t be covered up, so I’m led to tears because it feels like there’s no hope. Real tears, over what on the surface appears to be nonsense, but point to a much deeper heart matter that took me far too long to notice in my life.
The truth of the matter is this: I’m a sinner. We’re all sinners. Born into sin in a sinful world. Our natural human nature is flawed because of it. The human race fell short long ago. All because one devious snake convinced a woman to compare who she was with God. All because the first couple on the planet compared what they had with what they could have had. And as a result, thousands of years later, we’re still naturally inclined to look to others and want what they have. I find it too easy to look away from all of the ways that God has been at work in my life and poured out more blessings than I could ever deserve as I look to the ways that God is working in others’ lives and how he is pouring out blessings on them. But just because that may be our natural inclination, doesn’t mean it’s right. It doesn’t mean that’s what’s best for us.
Ever feel like your sin takes you over sometimes? That you feel like you’re in an identity crisis because you know that you know that you know that there are lies being whispered into your ears, yet they still sink in to your heart and affect how you see yourself and the world. My tendency to compare has brought out the worst in me – even if others don’t see it. I can think of moments that I’ve found it hard to rejoice with loved ones over exciting opportunities, simply because my opportunities don’t seem as great in comparison. I put on a face of support, yet I’m envying what they have. I can think of moments that I’ve felt a [ugly] tweak of happiness at someone’s downfall, because that means I’m coming out ahead of them. But am I really? I can think of moments that I’ve looked past other people’s hurts because I’m too preoccupied with my own life – my own self. I can think of moments that I’ve talked down about someone just because I don’t like that something is happening for them that I wish was happening for me. And I can think of moments that I’ve been angry with the people that get the things that I want – just like a child that gets upset when someone else gets the toy that they wanted. Yes, I’m like an immature child. Because all of this is wrong, wrong, wrong. & I know it.
You see, it’s a downward spiral of selfishness, vanity, envy, doubt, insecurity, pride, gossip – things that Scripture tells us to turn away from. I can praise God for the Holy Spirit and His work in me. Because of Him, these attributes do not have to define me. Because of that, these attributes come up in flares, rather than consume my everyday. But those days that they do fill me up, I just need more and more Jesus to push them out.
What Jesus accomplished on the cross covered these sins of ours (as well as all the rest). His death and resurrection have given us the opportunity to conquer these sins; to put them to death and never have to look back. Becoming more aware of these sinful tendencies of mine has been hard. It’s been overwhelming and exhausting to address a tangled web of sins that have infected my life for longer than I even realize. Like weeds that have taken root and hurt to pull up. But it’s been so worth it to endure. Because Jesus is so worth it. And finding contentment in Him brings my heart, mind, and soul the peace, rest, and satisfaction it aches for. It’s the only kind of satisfaction I will ever need. And one day, I hope to be able to confidently say that without any inch of reservation. Without looking back to the things of this world that try to steal my joy. Because that’s what comparison does. It is the thief of joy. It steals my attention away from the God that sacrificed everything for my freedom. And typing that last sentence out just makes me shake my head at myself as that truth saturates itself into my heart. Because what could be better than that kind of all consuming love? I’ll give you a hint: nothing.
These struggles, these thoughts, these heartaches have been at the core of my being for years. Sometimes without me even knowing it. But more recently, they have been the inspiration for me to make changes – to turn to Jesus and find true contentment and satisfaction in who He is. And as a result, my heart longs to share the truths I have learned, am learning, and have yet to learn, with you. Because I KNOW that I am not alone in this. I know that this internal sin is one that in some way, shape, or form, attempts to infect us all. This is the topic that I’ve been brainstorming about since October. This is the series that I’ve wanted to introduce to you all for so long, but have been seeking for the right words to say. I’m all kinds of excited/nervous/anxious to finally be getting it out in the open. I’ve almost felt unworthy of speaking on such topics, because in no way, shape, or form have I mastered this. But that’s the beauty of it, isn’t it? That in Christ’s redemption of my heart I can share my struggles, my failures, my triumphs, my hurts, and my joys alongside of you all as we can come together to find true everlasting contentment in the One who gives us more than enough, and who is more than enough. So trust me when I say that there is so much more to come. This is only the beginning.
Will you join me in turning away from comparison, and running towards Jesus, and as a result, running towards contentment?