Though it’s a little early, I’ve decided what to give up for Lent this year: comparisons. I’ll still price check at the grocery store, but I’m going to stop comparison shopping for my life.
I do this all the time. I have an impressive mental list of things other people have, or more importantly are, that I don’t or am not. I like to check this list regularly to keep myself a little off balance because that is clearly the straightest path to self-improvement. Though of course I wouldn’t dream of assuming someone else’s life is perfect while simultaneously being hard on myself. That’s silly. I mean, who does that?
Life doesn’t come with a shopping cart. We can’t stroll down the aisle and pick unlimited good health off one shelf and a love of gardening off another. No one person’s cart is full of all joy and no suffering, all talent and no failings, no matter what their Facebook feed says.
That’s not to say our actions have no effect. We can eat healthy and exercise. But we arrived in this existence as a particular blessed, beautiful, and messy bundle, and life will happen to all of us fragile and imperfect human beings.
Aside from the unpleasant mental anguish that comes with comparing ourselves to others, the deeper problem arises in our relationship with God. Any time we spend trying to be someone else takes us farther from God dwelling in us and in the other person. God loves us and everyone else as we are, so if we want to encounter God, we need to inhabit ourselves rather than search for someone better to be.
We strive to categorize a world that longs to be celebrated. I watch my mind struggle to find some assurance that I’m better than others—or worry that I’m not—by counting my and their accomplishments and mistakes, strengths and weaknesses. It’s such a poverty-stricken way to relate to the manifestation of infinite love that I am, that everyone else is.
Instead, I plan to hold the mystery of the coexisting wholeness and brokenness of myself and others and let God reveal each moment’s celebration.