Take a moment to study the picture of us above. If I wrote nothing and just left it to your imagination, what would you say about it? How would you describe what you saw? Maybe you would speak of how happy we are, or the beautiful scenery around us. Perhaps you would remark, “Cute family,” or secretly wish you could take a vacation like this. Maybe you would actually have a thousand words to say. Maybe you would simply think to yourself, “It must have been a good day.” Somewhere in your mind and heart, you may even think, “They look like the perfect family.”
I wonder, what would you say?
This picture was actually taken 5 years ago near Bend, Oregon when we were visiting family. I must admit, I smile every time I see it. But not for reasons you would imagine.
What you don’t know about this picture was that when it was taken, my wife and I were barely speaking to one other. We were in a terrible fight. Scratch that- we were in the middle of World War III! Our two girls were tired and cranky, and we were underdressed to hike around the lake behind us (which was more like a swamp)! To make matters worse, the temperature was dropping by the minute. Not exactly a picture-perfect day! In fact, the moment after this was taken, we stormed off in separate directions.
You’d never know it from this picture. We look happy. We look together. One glance and you might even start to compare yourself to us a little. Why? Because that’s what we do. When our life is filled with hectic circumstances, struggles, failures, or hard times, we see everyone around us as “perfect,” “having it all,” or “much better off than we are!”
This is especially true with family. I know this because we’ve done this. So often in the past, we’ve found ourselves caught in the comparison trap, judging ourselves against what seems to be, perfect families. We’ve wrestled with thoughts like, “If only we had it all together like ‘so and so,’ life would be good!” Or, “If only our children would behave like theirs, we’d have something to smile about!” The truth, however, was that we were measuring our short-comings and failures against what we didn’t know about other people.
How often does this happen? How often do we all do this? Out of deep insecurity, pride, envy, and a longing for more, we compare and contrast our lives all the while, missing a big reality:
Life is not perfect.
No one’s life! Repeat this to yourself- “Nobody’s life is perfect!” The neighbor who drives a fancy sports car and looks like a page out of GQ each morning, as he leaves for work, may be in so much debt that he struggles to sleep at night wondering how he’ll pay all of his bills. The mother who’s kids never argue, are always matching, and seem to be happy, may have a marriage that’s on the rocks, a career that is failing and be seconds from quitting on life.
Another person’s accomplishments may be the veil that’s covering their near breakdown. You have no idea what’s happening with other people. You may be comparing yourself to something that’s nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
The Comparison Trap.
If we could only see clearly we would observe that we’re, in fact, caught in a trap. It’s the comparison trap. It’s actually more like a game that we never win. The way to change this is to stop comparing yourself to others. Unfortunately we end up comparing ourselves with what we don’t know about someone else. We base our worth on a facade or a front. And that, my friends, is a hard trap to get out of.
The only way out is to embrace our imperfection and cherish the life we’ve been blessed with, even though it’s far from perfect. When we recognize that we are all broken, all a mess, and all limping through the trenches of parenthood, marriage, family and life with the same wounds, we find healing. In fact, that’s where the greatest healing comes from: realizing you’re not alone!
Back to my previous point- we must stop comparing ourselves with what we do not know about other people. Just because a person, or a family, looks put together and happy, does not mean they actually are put together and happy. We can’t see, or hear, what happens behind closed doors. Human beings have a bad habit of making it seem as though everything is okay. You’re reading the blog of two people who have fallen into this many times in the past!
Happiness is found when happiness is embraced, regardless of circumstances. This is a truth I’m continually realizing. A smile crosses my face when I look at the picture above. I can’t help it. I describe it as perfectly imperfect! We are beautifully imperfect, made to be just who we are supposed to be and nothing makes us happier.
It hasn’t been an overnight deal and we certainly have not arrived at any destination. It’s more of a journey than a destination. We have a lot to smile about and it has nothing to do with anybody else’s life. It’s simply because we’re us! That’s who God made us to be and that’s what we cherish most. Outside of that, there’s nothing else we want to be.
Have you caught yourself comparing your family or your life to someone else’s? Why? What do you need to do to change?