Comparison is the Thief of Joy. – Theodore Roosevelt
I was recently listening to a sermon by my good friend, Fr. Anthony Messeh, about visiting the land of Er. What is the land of Er? Living a life of comparison – she is pretti-ER, bett-ER Mom than me, thinn-ER, cool-ER, and the list goes on and on. On and on.
We are taught from a young age what does not look good and what looks good. What is considered acceptable or not. This goes from looks, to education, to status, to where we live. I remember when I first met my husband, I always made my hair stick straight, wore contacts instead of glasses, and stayed out of the sun to stay “lighter.” From my culture, I always “knew” curly hair, darker skin, and glasses were the things that made me look ugly. The funny thing is that he loved me just as I was. With my curly hair. With my skin color. And with my glasses (I had an eye problem and had to stop wearing contacts). My husband loved me just as I am. Just as I am.
And that is how Christ looks at us. Just as we are. There is a beautiful worship song that we sing here in Zambia. The words are “Just take me as I am.” And Christ does just that. Takes us and loves us just as we are. Just as I am.
Last year, I got caught in a comparison trap with my son. He was achieving his potential. He was well rounded, active in sports, music, spiritually and so much more. But, he wasn’t getting the top awards. What?! How could he not be better than the guy next to him? I swallowed down disappointment and shame. I came from a family where we racked up on the awards from Honor Roll to Highest Academic awards. And where I received my security and confidence from knowing I was doing better than the guy or girl next to me.
I was wrong. My security comes from HIM. And only Him. My confidence from Jesus Christ. And He accepts me Just as I am. Just as I am. With my weaknesses and shortcomings. He accepts my son the same way.
Recently, I lost over 30 lbs by changing my lifestyle – good healthy habits, eating right, and exercise. I am proud of my achievement. But, when I get to the gym or look on social media and I see a Mom even better than me. Thinner and more muscular. Despite my accomplishments, the comparison trap continues.
At Christmastime, as I kept up with what my friends back in the States were doing, I began to feel a sense of sadness. Are we missing out? On family, friends, beautiful homes, and pretty Christmas lights around the town. Am I not giving my husband and children good Christmas memories that they will cherish forever? Am I not measuring up as a Mom? Is that Mom better than me? But, then it dawned on me as my 7-year-old son was dressed up as Santa passing out chocolates to little Sunday School kids and my little 3-year-old daughter was helping my husband and I pass out a Christmas-day meal to our Church family, that we were creating our OWN Christmas traditions. Yes, they are different than some of my friends and family but they are OURS. There is no comparison between the two.
After I graduated Georgia Tech University in Atlanta, I moved to Washington, D.C. to attend law school. Before going to Atlanta, I grew up in a real small town. I’m talking small! There was one traffic light in town and the two tallest things in town were the First Baptist Church steeple and the sign for McDonald’s, which had just come to town when I was in high school. As soon as I graduated high school, I left and didn’t want to look back. I was too “big city” for my small town. Then, when I moved up to D.C., I was too “northern” for my “southern” roots. I rejected everything of who I was. Even as an Egyptian-American, there came a time where I hated my Egyptian roots. I hated the language, its closed-mindedness, the culture, everything. I was too “American” for my “Egyptian” roots.
When I would visit the South, I was living a life of comparison. My new church was better than my old one. My new social group was more modern than my old one. Everything was slower in the South. I walked the fastest in the Atlanta airport just to make sure everyone knew I no longer associated with the South.
Why did I reject my past? Because I lived in a Comparison Trap. Thing are better somewhere else. I wasn’t secure in who I am. And who God made me to be.
Now, I have begun to embrace my roots! God took me from Southern USA to Southern Africa to remind me of my roots. I have begun to live simpler. To not run away from who I am but understand how God used my past to shape me for today. He embraces me for who I am. Just as I am. When my confidence is built in Him, I value who I am today.
I also have learned to focus on the positive, instead of criticizing. Funny enough, I have spent more time with people from the Egyptian culture here in Zambia and I have seen the good things in the culture that I rejected – it’s hospitality, generosity, and ability to hold on to their Christian beliefs despite persecution.
There is no perfect place to live. No perfect culture. No perfect children. No perfect academic performance. No perfect appearance. No perfect Christmas traditions. No perfect anything. Only God is perfect. And He takes me just as I am. Despite my imperfections.
I have just finished reading Ecclesiastes and King Solomon writes, “Rejoice O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth” (Ch. 11:9).
I am going to remember my youth. Rejoice in it. Embrace it. Embrace the values and simple life I grew up in. And to Be Content!
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. Philippians 4:11-12
Let’s Chat: Do you get caught in the Comparison Trap? What encourages you to be freed from the trap?