Comparison Brings Despair

Comparison Brings Despair

Perhaps most of us are not – as they say – comfortable in our own skin.

I write that sentence, sitting in my chair by my living room window, typing on my laptop and enjoying the early morning sunbeams filling the space around me. A perfectly idyllic situation but wrought with insecurity and various levels of emotional uncomfortable-ness and I wonder – no I assert – that surely I am not the only one who feels this way. As I daydream through my living room window I wonder if most of us are fleeing a current reality while trying to construct some other ‘thing’.

Take me for example. I am currently wearing some sort of weird elastic belt – meant for hernias in an attempt to keep ‘everything in’ while I wait for surgery. I don’t want to wait for surgery. I don’t even want surgery. I want to wake up and not have a hernia and I most certainly don’t want to face the fact that my health is not at a place where I would have no need for such medical intervention in the first place. But it is more than a poor self-reflection or more than self-imposed body shaming that I struggle with – although my mind is riddled with the various complexities of comparing myself to the physique of ‘The Rock’ and how that self-depreciating approach to life impacts how I view everyone else around me as well.

My struggle finds its roots in a hedonistic way of life that I long to embrace and live every moment of my life by. I love how John Piper explains this philosophy with his work on Desiring God. I paused here and went to search for a link to a reference to explain further to my readers on what I mean by this, however what I found was a growing critique of his work and some of the weird directions his work has taken over the years.

And therein lies my point.

I haven’t followed John Piper for years. I connected with his philosophy of finding joy in everything around us – to purposefully pursue joy in the most unabashed and selfish way I possibly could – rooted in a deepening desire to know God more and to enjoy Him as He delights in me. It was enough to have my eyes opened in the moment that I didn’t feel it necessary to continue to follow ‘him’ as in John because it was the pursuit of ‘Him’ as in God that I was most interested in and this hedonistic methodology seemed so intriguing to me.

But it would appear that others did continue to follow John and inevitably they were disappointed with what they found.

I have a distant friend – or at least someone whom I once called a friend – who has taken to writing a blog about his mental illness – his depression – in an attempt to come to terms with this monster in his life appearing to steal everything he loves so dearly from him. I have been intrigued with how he writes – so fleeting, so despairing, as he seems to reflect that any joy in his life is merely ‘accidental’ at best because Depression is lurking around the next corner. His inevitable comparison to absolutely everyone and everything around him both in circumstances and ‘other-ness’ only seems to reinforce to him that he must embrace a life worthless, a life devoid of pleasure and sensational happiness.

On several occasions after reading his blog I have thought why doesn’t he simply embrace the moments of joy for what they are? Why be so suspicious of them? So much energy spent on the comparison to others that it has most definitely revealed his own intense level of not being comfortable in his own skin.

And then my thoughts go toward my children and perhaps in less dramatic ways, even mundane ways, as I hear their stories of employment woes the same theme seems to emerge and I am left to wonder, “Is no-one comfortable in their own skin?” The complaints of other staff members or customers only seem to emphasis their cry to be known and to be appreciated for what they have to offer and the growing reality that they are not and what that would do to someone’s sense of worth and value in the moment.

But why is any of that important after all? If we could learn to find contentment with who we are and where we are then what would any of that peripheral stuff matter? If I could get over the fact that I am in poorer health today than I was even a few years ago and stopped beating myself up about it what would change? Well, for starts I would be happier and more content and in those circumstances I would find it easier to pursue joy and consequently to experience joy.

If my children could look beyond the pettiness and negative actions of their co-workers or customers that they interact with and focus on the aspects of their work that they do enjoy – then what would change? This is hard to do of course because each of us long to be affirmed in what we do and in who we are and in this world of comparison and judgement finding a place where our need for those things are truly met is getting harder and harder to find.

My heart grieves for my children as they navigate this world on their own. My heart grieves for my long ago friend who has decided that to embrace his despair is somehow his lot in life. My heart grieves for me as I find myself missing out on moments in which I could be experiencing joy but instead find myself dwelling too long on the sideways looks that people give me, judgement written upon their faces and me suddenly thinking that what they are thinking means something to me.

It is a rotten way to live and yet I get trapped by it all and in the moment I am taken away from my blissful morning, enjoying the birds chirping, my dog curled up by my feet, basking in the sunbeams. I look out my living room window and miss the beautiful blue sky and the flowers in the window box and instead I dwell entirely too long on the comparison to others and their judgements of me.

A morning wasted.

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