Picture courtesy of Google Images.
The grass is greener where you water it. It may seem a bit glib to say so, but I believe it is certainly a healthy perspective to have.
I don’t know what your life situation is right now. Perhaps you feel that the grass is greenest right where you are – you may have been blessed with your heart’s desires in life, and if so, I am sincerely happy for you. Or you maybe distracted by looking over the fence at your neighbour’s beautiful lawn and rose studded garden, and lamenting the state of your own garden. You may have one eye on your lawn and one on theirs seeing positives and negatives in both of your situations. Perhaps the latter, despite possibly inducing a squint, is the most practical point of view. 🙂
However, why do we compare our lives with others? From a young age, it seems that society, peer groups, educational institutions, relations and the media to varying degrees indoctrinate us into the comparison trap. We are bombarded with images of what our bodies ‘should’ look like, encouraged or pressured to excel and get the best grades, asked questions like ‘why can’t you be more like your cousin/friend/sibling/classmate so and so…they are so much more (fill in the blank)’. And the list goes on and on. It is hardly surprising that most of us go through periods of discontent with ourselves and our lot in life, feeling that somehow we’re just not good enough, or our lives don’t quite measure up.
A degree of comparison can sometimes be healthy especially if it makes us more grateful for what we have, and more desirous to help others who are less fortunate than ourselves. Yet, I don’t believe that this is the kind of ‘healthy comparison’ that most of us, however subconsciously, train our minds to make.
It’s been said that “Comparison is the thief of joy”, probably because most comparison stems from negative heart motives and results in feelings of jealousy, envy, pride, self-pity or resentment. The thief steals our joy and destroys our well being and relationships, or mars them at least.
We tend not to compare ourselves with those less fortunate than ourselves, and feel grateful for our own blessings in life, but instead compare ourselves and our lives with those who “have what we want” in life, have what we think will make us happy, and with a false sense of entitlement and perhaps a degree of prideful arrogance, have what we think we should have or be given.
Perhaps it is our responsibility to take the more mature path and keep our eyes fixed on our own lives and situations. That way we will be more likely to be a blessing to other people as well as taking better care of ourselves and our mental and emotional wellbeing.
I am called to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn”. To be happy when other people are blessed and to show compassion to those who are hurting.
However, I am not superhuman, and have to work on having a healthy outlook on life. If I think back to my dreams as a little child, when thinking about that question we are so often asked when we are young, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, I think my heart desires would have painted a picture of happiness, love and health. I wanted to be a writer and a painter or cartoonist, to be beautiful, to be happily married and have a happy family of my own, and to live and be close to the family I was born into. I would want best friends and a puppy and a log cabin in the woods, to be immersed in nature’s beauty and to travel the world. I would be a picture of health and happiness, a loving wife and mother, daughter, sister and friend. Life would be coming up roses!
However, ‘the once upon a time’ of my childhood dreams has not resulted in the ‘happily ever after’ I longed for. So what actually happened? Well, there have been ups and downs in my life. You might say I am an unpublished writer, as I am working on two novels that I have not shown to many people and that I work on privately in my ‘spare time’. Writing is an act of catharsis and release from trauma as well as a creative passion. I am neither a painter or cartoonist, but I do like to doodle, sketch every now and then, and indulge in adult colouring books. I have been called beautiful and pretty several times since my teenage years, but I also have a daily battle over being called ugly and disgusting from the painful days of childhood bullying and so my self identity is something I need to desperately refashion. I am single, neither a wife, girlfriend nor a mother, I am blessed with some good friends, however, my best childhood friend sadly passed away a few years ago. I have skin allergies and so a puppy is out of the question, and I own my own flat / apartment in the city. I have parks and a river nearby to where I live, I can take a longer trip and go to quiet beaches. I have battled health struggles over the years including severe eczema, severe clinical depression, panic attacks, generalised anxiety disorder, feelings of despair at life and wanting to end it all, post traumatic stress, complex trauma, nightmares, sleeplessness, chronic pain and so forth. I do live within an hour’s travel time of my parents, which is a huge blessing to me, and I have been fortunate enough to have a good education despite everything else going on, gained two first class degrees, have a full time job and have done some solo travelling!
So all in all, there are plenty of plusses and minuses, however, some seasons of my life have felt particularly dark. Now that there is more experience of the Light around me, I’d like to reach out to others and share some things that I find helpful when we are tempted to compare ourselves and lives unfavourably with the next person.
During times of suffering in my life, I have often been surrounded with good news from other people’s milestones in life, when I have felt like I was carrying a millstone. Perhaps you can relate? You’re going through a tough time, and emotionally you’re already struggling but then you get news of someone’s engagement, marriage celebration, first, second, third, fourth child while you remain childless, new home, travel adventures when you are not well enough to even leave the house. Know what I mean? Chances are if you’re reading this, you do.
However, that’s where choice and responsibility comes in. As does self-care. When you face a situation like that you may feel happy for your friend or the person who has come to good times in their lives, you may paint out the negatives in their lives and over emphasise in your mind the positives, you may feel a twinge of sadness and pain that you are not experiencing your longed for hopes and dreams. And that is exactly where choice comes in. Your choice. It is ok to feel what you feel, but what you do next is more important. Do you dwell on these unfavourable comparisons, do you indulge in feeling sorry for yourself, do you resent the other person, think ‘it’s not fair’, and go on a spiral of negativity?
Or do you celebrate that other person’s happiness, acknowledge your own feelings of sadness, take time out to take care of yourself and be grateful for the good in your own life? Because despite how ‘unfair’ things might seem, it is your choice and responsibility as to how you react, whether positively or negatively, what you allow your mind and heart to dwell on, and what you do to take a healthier path.
Your life matters. The things you take for granted, someone else is longing for. Truly longing for. One of the best relationships in my life is that which I have with my mum. I am grateful everyday, and yet probably not as deeply as I should be. A friend of mine volunteers with the city mission helping homeless people. She often comes into contact with women who have been abused, traumatised, addicted, raped, and sold into prostitution. We have prayed together for such people facing such terrible sadness. My friend told me of one particular woman, who was so relieved and even celebrated hearing of her mother’s death. This woman had been so abused and mistreated by her own birth mother, had been hurt and chewed up to such an extent that her death was a relief to her. I found this heart breaking. I think I appreciate my own mum all the more, and want to reach out to others in whatever small way I can in their suffering. Sometimes comparison can be good when it helps us to be more grateful and more compassionate.
I would encourage you to slow down, take time and really think of those things about yourself and that you have in your life that you are taking for granted. Things that other people are longing after. Take time and focus on your own little patch of green grass, water it, nurture it, and maybe even plant some seeds of love in someone else’s garden. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and add to the beauty that they already are blessed with. Mourn with those who mourn and plant something beautiful in someone who’s garden is dry and barren. And go that extra step in gratitude to express your thankfulness to the people who matter in your life. Give thanks to God. And know that your life is important, and it is up to you to nurture and invest in it. 🙂