The thief of joy

If I had to chose one social media forum it would be Instagram – I have always loved photographs and have always been nosey and so can spend hours looking at other people’ s lives/experiences/families. I saw this quote the other day which just about summed it up “Start looking through someone’s insta next thing you know you’re on their cousin’s brother’s wife’s profile looking at pics from Barcelona 2010”.

The flip side of social media is that it paints only the positive/happy/exciting aspects of people’s lives. I have lost count of the times I have had conversations with people about how social media can make them feel rubbish about their own lives as they get a glimpse into other people’s lives. In fact only the other morning I saw an article on facebook about how facebook can cause depression for those very reasons. I have at times had to sign off social media for periods because seeing other people’s happy family shots was just too hard. In reality those pictures/statuses only show a part of people’s lives and often not the harder bits but yet when we are in our hard bits it is tough to remember that reality.

The other week Lucy turned to me and said totally out of the blue “Mummy you are pretty but you are not as pretty as Lois.” Lois is her adored aunt and my sister-in-law. Laughingly I told her she was welcome to go and live with Lois to which Lucy replied that even though Lois was prettier she loved me more (although I don’t doubt Lois comes a close second). My sister-in-law is a very beautiful lady and so I was not too shocked by Lucy’s statement save that maybe I expected slightly more loyalty!

A few years ago Lucy saying that may have sent me over the edge emotionally. In the midst of my grief my brother fell in love. I struggled so much that they had something I no longer had that for the first 9 months I could not meet my sister-in-law to be, driving my poor parents mad, and in fact had to force myself to meet her once they were engaged. People would say to me I should be happy for my brother and could not understand why it was so tough for me. I was happy for my brother, I wanted nothing but the best for him but at the same time my heart was broken and I wanted my happy ever after back. During that period I spent a lot of time feeling like a failure, here was I the messed up one barely surviving at times, and here was what appeared to be this perfect couple with great, worthy careers and their bright shining future ahead of them together. Basically I was comparing my life with theirs and I was jealous.

I did eventually meet my sister-in-law, and by God’s goodness and grace, had the privilege of being one of her bridesmaid. I love my sister-in-law dearly and am grateful for her patience with me over the years.

Over the last decade I have watched as friends’ families have grown, as careers have developed, incomes increased and larger family homes, in nicer areas, have been purchased. I have really struggled comparing my circumstances with those around me, at times being slightly embarrassed at inviting Lucy’s friends over to play to our much smaller house.

I have learnt the painful way that comparison is truly the thief of joy, as Mark Twain said it is the death of joy. It is an on-going process but I am slowly learning to accept who I am, to be thankful for what I have and to compare down instead of always comparing up, to see just what I have compared to so many in this world and learning that I am not defined by my bank balance, the size of my house or my career successes. Every comparison I make robs me of life, of truth, of relationship – it sows seeds of doubt, of bitterness and jealously and it means I miss out on all the good things there are for me because I get so tied up in focusing on what I do not have or how I could be better or different or what could be better or different.

I refuse to waste anymore time or energy comparing myself to others. Yes I have failed at times, and will fail again, maybe I will never be able to afford a bigger house and maybe I am not always as together as other people around me – I would love to have been one of those people who acted at all times with dignity and grace but I am who God made me to be with all my emotions out there for the world to see and I am learning to be grateful for that. I cannot try to be someone I was not made to be because to do so is essentially sticking two fingers up at God – he made me, he delights in me and he loves me unconditionally as he does each and every one of us and I know he wants us to live in the freedom of those truths.

Our lives are our stories unique to each one of us and I for one want to get on and live each chapter of my story, with all its ups and downs, without thinking I should be a different character in my story or that I would rather my story was actually someone else’s because otherwise I will get to the end having wasted so much time, and so many opportunities and experiences.

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