For a long time, I thought the answer to avoiding comparison was to put on blinders and not look too closely at anyone I might be tempted to envy. Maybe this is a good temporary measure, training wheels of sorts, but training wheels are a misnomer in that they don’t actually train the muscles you need to stay balanced and upright. Looking away from whatever elicited ugliness in my heart didn’t change my heart; it made room for that ugliness to thrive.
Look, maybe it’s not comparison for you. But we are all experts at avoidance strategies. Easier to lock the darkness deep in a closet and build lives that let us contain it there. Easier to protect our fragile egos from criticism and shame than to vulnerably embrace weakness, ego be damned. Easier to accommodate the lies we believe, to tend to them like little pets, than to confront them. Easier to keep our crutches and distractions than to train our muscles in humility, forgiveness, and genuine love.
A quick aside on love, and a case study:
God reminded me the other day, out of the clear blue while I was washing dishes, that “love doesn’t seek its own.” I scoffed out loud when the phrase popped into my head – have I ever loved someone without my own desires and need for affirmation caught up in the mix? Is it even possible, I wondered, to be so selfless? (When scoffing is my first reaction to truth, it’s a good sign its opposite is one of those little pets I’ve been making room for in the dark closet of my heart. I picture them like Ursula’s minions in The Little Mermaid, ugly and useless, but cherished nonetheless.) So I scoffed, because genuine love is so…offensive to the ego. It requires so much sacrifice, and emptiness, and mundane faithfulness, even when it’s met with scorn or apathy. My ego scoffed, but I was forced to trot that little pet belief out into the light and examine it. Yes, genuine love is hard, and we’re bound to fail. But my pet belief that it’s not worth trying didn’t hold up, out there in the light of truth.
I fell hard and often when I learned to ride a bike without training wheels. One time, my hands didn’t even break my fall, and I suffered a puffy scrape under my left eye. I howled at the pain that worsened as salty tears mixed with the bloody scratch.
My ego gets bruised every time God starts to train a heart muscle that a coping mechanism has kept weak. I howl in pain every time truth swoops in to banish a lie I hold dear. But there’s not a freedom on earth like the wind blowing your bangs as you ride, sans training wheels.
*An abbreviated version of this first appeared in Around the Table Weekly, if it looks familiar to you ATT listeners!