5 steps to freedom from the comparison trap

It must be true because you saw it on Facebook; you officially have no real friends.  “They” all got together and you weren’t invited.  “They” took a picture together at the restaurant and you didn’t even know they were going.  “Their” kids all hang out and the parents are having a blast together.

But you weren’t invited.
Therefore you must not really have any friends.

Lies.
All lies.

The enemy would love for you to believe that you’re useless, that no one wants to be with you, that there’s something wrong with you, and that you’re not worth loving.  But in fact scripture says just the opposite.  Scripture says:

  • He has plans for you, including hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • He made you on purpose and you’re a BEAUTIFUL creation. (Psalm 139:13-16)
  • He gave His most prized and favorite person as a SACRIFICE for you because He loves you that much!  (John 3:16)
  • And quite possibly my favorite; we are to focus on our own ethics, morals and actions so that we don’t fall into the comparison trap.  Nothing good happens in the comparison trap. (Galatians 6:4-5)

Galatians 6:4-5

Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

So who do you want to believe;  The enemy who loves to whisper lies to you?  Or your creator who knows the innermost workings of you and gives you grace upon grace as you sometimes soar and sometimes stumble through life?

Here are five simple steps to turn away from the gaping hole of comparison and focus forward:

  1. Positive affirmations: Find a scripture verse or verses that remind you of who you are in CHRIST.  Write it down and put it places you’re most likely to see it when you’re feeling down. (Car, desk at work, home screen on your phone, on your laptop, on your mirror, in your closet).
  2. Pick five:  Make a list of FIVE people with whom you want to grow deep into relationship.  Now go back through that list and take out the people who need you for something because they are in an unhealthy place right now.  Those are not your deep people right now. The people on your list should be people with whom you love to spend time and you genuinely enjoy their presence. You can and should still be there for the hurting – just remember these aren’t your deep people.
  3. Make your own plans. If you find you’re so focused on other people’s plans, it means you aren’t making your own.  Go make your own.
  4. Don’t tag people on Facebook. I know.  That’s hard. If you’re in the comparison trap already you would love to “show them” who you went out with and how much fun you had. Please listen closely — a) it’s not necessary to tag people in order to make memories b) if you are drawn to tagging people in your posts to make a point, you’re making your own plans for all the wrong reasons.
  5. You have nothing to prove. So stop trying to prove something.

My last piece of advice is this — research codependency and/or “people pleasing.” There are many churches who have free, anonymous programs to help you break the chains of codependency.  Here are two websites you can check out to see what’s close to you:

Celebrate Recovery

re:generation

You are loved.
You are needed.
You have the keys to make a change.

 

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This is probably TMI, but…

image (3)

My friends know that I am pretty much an open book.  There isn’t a whole lot that I am too embrassed to share about myself.  I think that comes from years and years and years of medical issues.  I have been programmed to give the details.  All of the details.  So that nothing gets missed.  But sometimes I go too far and by the time the information is out of my mouth, it’s too late to take it back!

3 Signs You’re Sharing Too Much Information

1. You don’t want anyone to meet your spouse.  Or your brother.  Or your boss.

Early in our marriage, I had to learn to do a lot of things on my own due to my husband’s work shifts.  I learned to fix things around the house, I learned which line to stand in at the tax office, and I even learned which car repair place was honest (and unfortunately also learned which ones to avoid).  We struggled early in our marriage because we didn’t know how to grow together instead of further apart.  Since he wasn’t around for me to talk to, I talked to friends.  After our son was born I was tired with a capital TEE-EYE-AR-EEE-DEE and he was still only home one night a week.  I created a horrible pattern of dissing my husband to my friends and family because deep down I wanted people on “my side.”

Now, I was never actually in a courtroom battle with my husband, nor did anyone stand us face to face and ask to hear my side versus his side – but alas, I felt the need to gather an army of troops.  Let me skip ahead and tell you how that worked out for me in the end.  It didn’t.  It just didn’t work out.  I noticed I would get nervous when people I worked with would meet him because I wasn’t sure what they would say – and vice versa, I got nervous when he would meet people I worked with …. are you sensing a pattern here?

RESOLUTION FOR SIGN #1: Just go talk to the person who is driving you nuts.  You don’t need an army.  Period.  If you can’t work it out, then seek wisdom and guidance from one or two people AFTER you have prayed about your sitation.

2. You start a conversation with, “this is probabaly TMI, but ….”

Again, I admit that there are things I have discussed with people that are just awkward and … weird.  Like bowel movements for example.  ( I know, I’m not heeding my own advice very well!) But I have to tell you, once you find out who your IBS friends are, you know you can share great tips that you just can’t seek out from anyone in your contacts list!  But let’s just say you’re walking through the grocery store and you run into a neighbor you haven’t seen in awhile and she says, “HEY!  How ARE you?!?!”

Warning: This is not the moment you’ve been waiting for you share the intimate details of the unidentifiable rash on your son’s rear end.  It just isn’t.  The chances are that this type of in-passing conversation would be grounds for concise yet honest information.  If you are really going through some hard stuff – just be honest and say, “You know – I’m not the greatest I’ve ever been but this isn’t the best place for me to go into details.  I would love to catch up with you over coffee, though!”  If they bite and set up a coffee date, then great — let’s talk about how you’ve diagnosed your son with a disease that will maim him in 3 weeks thanks to Dr. Google.  If they don’t bite – don’t be offended.  This is probably not the friendship in which you want to share deep details of your life anyway.  And that’s OK!  Really, it is.

RESOLUTION FOR SIGN #2: When in doubt (or in a public place), keep it simple and always keep it honest.  There’s no reason to lie and say “I’m GREAT!” if you really aren’t great. However, going into the details of your Aunt’s mental illness in the office at the elementary school isn’t really a splendid idea either.  Keep it simple, honest, and concise.

3. You are more comfortable talking to your friend than you are talking to God.

Can I just out myself here and tell you that I’m guilty?  Because I’m guilty.  One of my favorite friends to talk to about big issues almost ALWAYS responds with, “have you prayed about this yet, Ann?”  Ok kids — take note: THIS IS THE BEST KIND OF FRIEND TO HAVE!  She listens, and she always turns me right back to God which is where I should have started in the first place.  Talking to God is prayer.  Prayer is talking to God.  It’s a relationship.  When you met (insert name of a great friend here) you didn’t start in with “so I have this weird bump on my arm” – you had to build the relationship first before you could start sharing TMI types of tidbits.  It’s the same with God on OUR end – but not on His end.  He is already there.  He’s warmed up and ready to go.  And guess what? Nothing will surprise Him so you can share every TMI thought you’ve ever had with Him.

RESOLUTION FOR SIGN #3: If you don’t have a friend who reminds you to talk to God — starting BEING that friend.  Start asking your pals if they have talked to God about the things they are sharing with you.  If you set the stage, you’ll start attracting the same types of encouragement from others.  And just start talking to God… He is aching to sit and have coffee with you.

5 If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought.  James 1:5 (The Message)

making the call to “that” friend

Why do we do that thing where we make an issue bigger than it really is?  Often times it isn’t even an issue but we don’t take the time to clarify someone else’s words and we go from harmless words floating in the air to panicking because there is an air raid and you’re being singled out.  You’re the only one taking shells!  RUN! HIDE!  GET IN YOUR FOX HOLE!

Or…
What if you just called your friend and asked for clarification.

GASP!

No Ann, you can’t possibly mean to face the issue head on could you?
Why yes, that’s exactly what I mean.  Hold on, let me finish rinsing the sand out of my teeth so I can share with you what I learned yesterday.

I’ve made this mistake too many times to count.  I had a conversation with a friend and walked away a little injured, then my mind went ahead and dropped the atomic bomb and made me think that friend didn’t care about me at all.  If I had a dollar for every friendship I have single-handedly ruined this way, I would quickly give it all away so no one would see how awful I have been.

Earlier this year I decided to change this way of catostrophasizing, but yesterday was my first real attempt at picking myself up from my face-plant in sand and setting my feet on the instructions that Jesus gave us.

23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.  Matthew 5:21

Since I gave up sacrificing animals for Lent (a bad, and probably inappropriate Catholic joke), I tend to think this looks more like when I am praying for peace, asking for God’s forgiveness, and asking for help to be obedient in His will — except that I am trying to step over the dead friendship I have created to get to God’s blessing.

You pretty much have to address the friends with whom you must reconcile. FIRST.

So I did.

I called “that” friend.  The one who said something to me early in the day and it messed with me all day long.  I said, “hey you know when you said this and that?  It hurt me and made me feel yucky.”

She was SO grateful that I called because as it turns out, she had only shared a teeny tiny snippet of the full story.  As I listened, I used my hazmat suit and gloves to clean up the chemical warfare carnage that I had created in my mind.

At the end of the call I felt SO much better.
And I also had more work do to… yup, more sand.

As it turns out, when you allow that atomic bomb to be built and to detonate in your mind, you create a World War II recreation in your own family by throwing up all over the people you love the most… and the cat would like for me to share this with you:

identity hidden to protect the innocent
identity hidden to protect the innocent

I had to go home and apologize to my husband for letting my chemical mess burn him, and I had to ask for his forgiveness.  He happens to be a pretty amazing guy who understood, forgave, and got the yard blower out to help clean up my sandy mess.

it’s a two-way street

What kinds of friends do you have?

  • I have friends who meet me at Starbucks and don’t care if I show up with wet hair and no makeup.
  • I have friends who tell me when it’s time to do my hair and put on makeup.
  • One of my friends lives in another country and we’ve only met face-to-face once.
  • A friend of mine has seen me, and aided me, during my absolute lowest points on my health journey, and she still loves me despite witnessing incredibly gross things.
  • Multiple friends just came and sat with me after a yucky surgery last year… just sat with me.
  • My husband and I have amazing friends who have moved to follow one of their dreams, yet we pick right back up where we left off every time we see them.
  • I am celebrating 25 years of friendship with one of my friends this Saturday, and she could probably still beat me in the original Super Mario Brothers.
  • One of my friends constantly reminds me to pray for myself. And there’s no sneaking by this friend, she is a Major Pain in the A…. Accountability department.  Which I happen to need.
  • I have a group of friends who would join me in singing the National Anthem in just about any elevator with no questions asked, then when the doors open they would proceed as though nothing happened.
  • I have a group of friends with whom I vacation twice a year for a weekend of sewing and crafting… and LAUGHING.
  • Ihaveafriendwhotextswithmelikethisandweboththinkit’shilarious. Andwearebothgrownups. Sorta.
  • I have friends who understand chronic illness because they too are suffering.
  • A friend of mine prayed for my salvation for YEARS, and I didn’t even know she was doing it!

What do all of these people have in common?  They are my friends because we encourage each other.

It’s a two-way street.
It’s give and take.
It’s grace.
It’s hugs.
It’s cards in the mail with stupid humor on them that make us laugh.
It’s patience and growth.
It’s forgiveness.
It’s tears and laughter.
It’s making mistakes.
It’s trips to the ER.
It’s a WHOLE lot of inside jokes.
It’s caring for each other’s children.
It’s illness and death, and new life and new loves.
It’s the excitement of new things and the comfort of the old things.
It’s praying together and urging each other to make wise decisions instead of running away when life gets tough.
It’s meals and coffee, cake and ice cream… and drinks from Sonic (rolling my eyes — you know who you are!)

Friendship is all of these things and more.

Are you struggling with your friendships?  I urge you to seek out what you can do to strengthen those relationships.  Is it time for forgiveness or confessions?  Is it time to pick up the slack because your friends are going through incredibly difficult times?  Is it time to ask for help because you feel like you’re drowning?

All relationships are built on honesty.  I have screwed that up many many times in the past because I was too proud to admit I was hurt or frustrated.  Don’t be that person.  It won’t work out well for you in the end.  I have lost friendships over my pride and a loss of words is no crutch to lean on.  It will crumble.

Pray about it.
Be honest and share your feelings.
Or stand up and pick up the slack because you adore your friends who are hurting.

What stumbling block do you see resurfacing again and again in your friendships?
What are you going to do about it?

mend your wall

Today I did something that was very hard to do.

I addressed part of my wall that needed mending.
Let me explain…

For several years I have had someone in my life who I have really admired, but I didn’t always make the wise choice to respect her.  She is smart, witty, and outwardly loves God more than anyone else I had ever met in life.  And at one point in my journey, she was my boss.

Now, I don’t know what happens inside of us when we lack the discipline to keep jealousy and frustration from penetrating our hearts — but I clearly lacked it.  I started to feel attacked because she could see the vision of what we needed to do and I couldn’t.  I felt frustrated.  I lacked enthusiasm because my pride got in the way.  I hid it from her, but I wasn’t afraid to share it all with my friend because my sinful human nature needed someone “on my side.”  UGH – why do we DO that?!?! (See Psalm 64 reference below … and PS: that was totally gossip on my part which is completely uncool.)

What was happening, unbeknownst to me, was that I was slowly kicking rocks away from one section of the wall inside of me.  My “wall” is what keeps me from doing the things that I know will not bring any good to me.

“Wall” – also known as healthy boundaries, willpower, and courage.

When your wall is strong you can fend off fits of rage and jealousy.  When your wall is weakened you create a big hole, and much like a dog who knows how to masterfully sneak out of his yard, you start going to that weak spot as an outlet for your negative thoughts and feelings.  It’s like you’ve taught yourself “it’s ok to be ugly when I’m over here, because that’s what this spot is for!”  If you aren’t careful, you begin to congregate with other people who also use that weak spot in the wall to unload their negativity. I have had friendships like this in the past and it made me feel dirty after we were done gossipping about other people.  If you’re in those kinds of relationships try addressing how it makes you feel.  If that doesn’t work, it’s time to seek out other friendships.

Psalm 64 says that an evildoer is someone who plots with others to hide their snares saying “who will know? No one but us!” — uh yeah, about that.  God knows.  He sees it all.  So you aren’t fooling anyone but yourself.

It’s never ok to hang out in your weak spot because it’s comfortable there, and never ever because “your people” are there.
I’m just going to leave that hanging for you to think about…. “your people.”

So what do we do about it?

Recently in church we’ve been learning about David and how he respected Saul EVEN WHEN Saul was trying to kill him.  (1 Samuel, chapters 18-28) David had multiple opportunities to slander Saul and even to kill him, but every single time he would say, “yeah but, God anointed this dude and I respect God’s choices and God’s chosen people so I’m not going to kill him.” (obviously that’s my own interpretation – but I think the next bible translation absolutely needs the word “dude” in it)

DUDE … could I still respect someone who was trying to kill me?  Um, it’s not likely.
So why couldn’t I respect someone who cares for me and who has always wanted the best for me? Seems easy enough.

I realized I was mending my wall from the top, down.  I glossed over the real issue and made nicey-nice with myself by saying it wasn’t that big of a deal. In actuality I was avoiding attending to the foundation.   But guess what happens if you don’t have a good foundation for your structure?  Yeah, your walls come tumbling down.  So, I chose this morning to start at the bottom.  It was time to begin repairs on the wall correctly, starting with the foundation.

I called her and asked for forgiveness.  

Even though she hasn’t been my boss for some time now, it has been eating away at me.  I needed her to hear me say that I was sorry, that I was in the wrong, and that I was weak then but didn’t want to be anymore.

Was it hard?
Yes. Terrifying actually.
It’s never easy to admit you have been wrong, especially when you’ve grown so used to that weak spot that the thought of the labor required to rebuild the wall feels overwhelming.

But you know what?
It was life-giving.
It was a conversation filled with grace and forgiveness and prayer and sharing … and love.

I’m not “fixed”, but I am forgiven.

She forgave me and I prayed to the Lord my God for forgiveness as well.  And now, I have the first few stones of my foundation set in place to mend my wall.  Now I just need to keep it up and keep making wise choices.

What mending do you need to address?
What is stopping you?

Ecclesiastes 3:7 says there’s a time to tear, and a time to mend.

Go mend your wall.
You won’t regret it.