February 03, 2011

Tough Love Talk

Earlier today I had an interesting conversation with one of my college students.  She has disabilities that challenge her and make normal tasks difficult.  And the crux of the conversation was spent on her complaining about how difficult it is to get certain responsibilities done for some classes.

Although I could sympathize with the fact that she does have more to deal with than the average college student I couldn't allow myself to feed her self pity.  I have had the privilege of teaching a few individuals with handicaps and in my opinion they surpass those of us who are "normal" in many ways.

So I chose my words carefully and in a respectful manner shared with her that we should never compare ourselves to others or expect ourselves to be perfect.  It is a lesson that she will have to learn with time and through repeated experience.  But she was open and attentive to what I said and that gave me hope that I was an encouragement to her.

When I returned home from work I was still thinking about many things we talked about.  And I was reminded that I wrestle with some of the same struggles from time-to-time. I sometimes wish I could do everything right.  I get tempted to compare myself to others.  I'm single.  Most of my peers are married.  I'm a musician but I'm not famous.  I love to write but I have never written a best seller  etc.

I think all of us could find something we think others do so much better.  And we may be right.  BUT... if we keep feeding those types of thoughts they don't improve the situation.  Negative thoughts don't improve anyone's current state for the better.  If anything they make things worse.

Comparing ourselves to others, real or imagined, only sets us up for failure.  We end up feeling worse about ourselves and end up chasing a phantom standard that was never meant for us to achieve.  In fact, for most of us that standard is impossible.  The truth is that the very people we so envy look at others in the same way.  And we don't know what their personal struggles are so we shouldn't be so quick to wish our lives were like theirs.  Remember the saying: Be careful what you wish for.

As for the issue of perfection, don't defeat yourself before you even have the chance to try.  Your 100% may never reach the level of your spouse, or fellow student, or teacher, or neighbor, or co-worker's 100 %.  And that's okay.

How can I say that? Because God never asked us to be perfect or be as good as (you fill in the blank.)

And many times we use wrongs that have been done to us or disabilities we may have as an excuse to not do our best. That is laziness.  And laziness comes from selfishness.  Ultimately, it is a veiled way of lifting our fists to God and saying that we can help ourselves.  That if we were just that much better we could fix what is wrong.  And this just isn't true.

Colossians 3:17 says,  " And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the father through Him."

This verse states that we should live, work, and strive to do whatever we do for God not for ourselves.  And we achieve this by nurturing an attitude of thanksgiving.  We should be thankful for the things God has given to us. When we compare ourselves or wish to be perfect we are not being thankful. Plain and simple.

So I may not be married but there is so much I am free to do because I don't have the responsibilities of a wife or mother.  So I may not be a famous musician but then I can walk anywhere public and "blend" into a crowd without worrying about paparazzi or stalkers.    So I may not have written a best seller but then the majority of people can't criticize my every word and thought etc.

Many times what the Bible tells us can be difficult to swallow. But you know what? I have come to realize that in those times when I read something that really hits a tender spot in my heart it is God's way of giving me a personal tough love talk.  And I'm thankful that He will always be by my side to do so whenever I need it.  And in turn I can do the same for others who need it too... like my student earlier today.


lgsquirrel said...

Well, I think posts like this one shows that you write with great wisdom and give good advice.


Mr. LGS: Wow. Thank you for the gracious compliments!

Tracy said...

Good Word!

I'm reminded of a favorite passage of mine in Galatians 6:4-5, I'm especially fond of the way it reads in The Message paraphrase:

"Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life."

I have to come back to this scripture frequently because it's easy to get into the comparison game. Yet when it's all said and done, God only asks me to live the life He's given me, not someone else's.


Tracy: Thank you for your encouraging words and for sharing that beautiful verse! Its amazing to me how gracious God is. He is actually a lot more easy-going with us then we many times believe.

Now that we are no longer under the "law" of the old Testament but under the new law made possible by Jesus Christ we can experience so much freedom. That verse in Galatians is a clear example.

Thank you for visiting and for sharing. :)