Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Seeking Significance, part 2: Put down the measuring stick

Last week I started a new series on significance, a topic that I am finding really resonates with women right now. (You can find the first post here.) It amazes me how many of us are working ourselves to the point of exhaustion, yet going through life with such a small view of ourselves. I would love to take just a few minutes to encourage you, my reader, that you are so much more than you think you are.

My sweet Lamb is becoming more and more of an artist every day. A few nights ago, as I read to the kids before bedtime (something I still love to do, even though the older two are quite capable of reading by themselves), I glanced over to see her doodling. It was beautiful!

"Wow, Sweetie! That is really impressive! You are such a great artist."

"Well," she replied, "it's really not that good."

I'm used to her preteen negativity, so I decided to let that go and try again. "Well, I think it's beautiful."

Then she turned on her extra-whiny voice. "But everyone else I know can do so much better than meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" (Picture slouched shoulders, hanging head, pouty lips--the whole nine yards. The girl is nothing if not dramatic.)

Oh for the love. I may or may not have threatened to never pay her another compliment ever again.

But honestly... how often do we do the exact same thing? Whatever I do is not good enough, because somebody else can do better.

Comparison has long been an issue for the human race, but the internet and social media have taken it to a whole new level. We have quantifiable measurements of how well "liked" we are--and how well "liked" everyone else is as well. And that is a dangerous rabbit trail.

Here's what we need to know: Comparison at its root is a tool. By comparing similar objects or data, we can make determinations that are helpful to society at large. For example, because doctors have determined that most babies walk between 9 and 18 months of age, parents who have a non-walking 3-year-old know that there might be a bigger issue. You might seem like that seems obvious, but we only KNOW that it is unusual for a 3-year-old to be unable to walk because we have seen when other children start to walk--in other words, by comparison. It's a tool.

Then again, a ruler is a tool, too--and a useful one. But if I give Lamb and Monkey each a yard stick and send them out into the yard, what are they likely to do? Before you know it, they will be using those sticks to beat.each.other.down. They will take that tool and turn it into a weapon.

And that is exactly what we do with comparison. That tool that allows us to make useful observations becomes a weapon that we use against ourselves--and others, depending on who comes out ahead. We compare our clothes, our homes, our cooking, our kids' test scores, even our Facebook friend list and Instagram likes.

But here's what I know: If you measure your success by comparing, you will always fall short. Just when you think you've reached the highest level on your stick, you'll find someone who is doing it better or harder or with more recognition, and your pride will never let you be satisfied with "enough."

If you want to be significant, put the measuring stick down.

Because significance is not about what anyone else is doing. It's about you doing what you do. It's about running the race put before you.

One of my favorite Bible stories comes from the book of John. Jesus has endured the crucifixion and returned to his disciples, including Peter, who denied knowing Jesus three times while Jesus suffered and died. Jesus singles Peter out and gently restores their relationship, letting Peter know that he was aware of Peter's shortfall--but that he loves him and wants to use him. He even tells Peter that he will remain faithful to the point of death. And after this beautiful, tender moment between Lord and disciple, what does Peter do? Does he thank Jesus for the grace and forgiveness that he was shown? Does he walk away in contented peace, knowing that he can handle whatever comes his way, now that he has restored this all-important relationship? No, he glances behind him, sees John, and says, "What about him?"

And I love Jesus' answer, because I can almost feel his frustration: "Jesus answered, 'If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.'" (John 21:22, emphasis added) In other words, "What's your deal, Peter? It doesn't matter what John or anyone else does. You do what you do--and that should be to follow me."

"I'm trying to be a good wife and mom, but my house just isn't as clean as Mary's!" Good for Mary. You run your race, let her run hers.

"I want to be effective for Jesus, but I'm not Billy Graham!" Of course you're not. There are 7 BILLION people in the world, and only ONE of them is Billy Graham. (Also, I'd be willing to bet that many of those 7 billion have never heard of Billy Graham, either. Does that make him less significant?) He is running his race, you run yours.

And speaking of big successful people like Billy Graham, let me just say this... The world of social media and reality TV tells us that in order to be somebody, we have to be KNOWN. We have to be famous and have followers. But this is just such a horrible lie. Take a minute and write down the 10 most influential people in your life. Really. Go ahead--I'll wait.

Now tell me: How many of the people on your list are famous? I'm not saying that people aren't impacted by Billy Graham or Oprah or... I don't know, Bradley Cooper. (What? I am impacted by Bradley Cooper every time I see him!) But I would be willing to bet that AT LEAST 8 people on your list would not be considered "important" by the world's standards. They did not earn their place on your list by speaking to you through a television screen or from their insightful Facebook posts, but by regular and personal contact. Usually the most significant people in our lives are the ones who show up.

My friends, your significance cannot be found in comparison. That is a losing game for every single person who plays. Do you know why? Because there are 7 BILLION people in the world, and only ONE of them is YOU. So put down your measuring stick and be YOU. If you want to be significant, just show up--for the people in your life, for the things you do well, for the cause(s) that are dear to you. Show up. Be significant.

1 comment:

Cuz from CA said...

LOVE your post! It is so true.