One of the things I struggle with is feeling the need to compare. It has often led me to the feeling of being dwarfed.
When I was younger, I had dreams of being a writer/journalist. I wrote tons of personal stories, I created a symbolic language in which to write a story when I was about 10, and I wrote nearly books and books of fan fiction. Then as I left high school, it all fell away. It ended up amounting to nothing.
I finished my Certificate in Culinary Arts. At the end interview, my chefs asked me where I was hoping to go next – into the work force (which they could potentially help with) or continue into the undergrad program. I told them I was going to go study theology. Their faces spoke volumes: she amounted to nothing.
I earned my theology degree and struggled through the growth of belief. After the degree I tried working in churches. I have only recently learned that I can’t work under supervisors (ordained or otherwise) who will not let go of their own power (especially when it’s a woman) nor seek the discernment of God in ministry, and now it looks as though my degree has amounted to nothing.
While living in Ottawa, I tried to take a Masters theology program at the University of St. Paul. I was underwhelmed by the expectations of the program, having been more challenged in my undergrad. And then, my firstborn baby came 5 weeks earlier than expected. I asked if they would make an exception to my course load and allow me to complete some of it from home. They said no and never contacted me again. It amounted to nothing.
While still under the assumption church work would be what I finally went into, I took the Certificate in Youth Ministry Studies, thinking this would be a great resource for future ministry. I loved it and learned tons, but, ultimately, it has amounted to nothing.
Social media does little to help reduce the comparative game, as anyone can tell you, everyone’s an expert in theology (or whatever your specialty is). My time on social media tends to amount to nothing.
Antidote to Comparison
I am not ungrateful for where I am. Nor am I unhappy. But this struggle is real. The antidote is gratefulness. A journey of gratefulness is the ultimate cure for comparison. And a great book to help one get started on that journey is Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. She is surprisingly Catholic in her writing, and it was a joy to read and to begin acting upon her premise.
I know I’m not the only person out there who has this very same struggle, but with a different history. I am happy because I choose happiness. Nothing in this world can gain me happiness. Occasionally I feel embittered, occasionally I feel at the bottom of the barrel.
But there is joy in my life that wasn’t calculated. Meeting my husband was unexpected and wonderful. Meeting such good friends in California for the short stint I was there was to some degree unexpected, and terribly mirthful. Making family into amazing friends while in Ottawa was a great surprise and delight. Ending up having three boisterous and lovable children is a joy of our marriage. “Meeting” a few precious people through social media has also been a delight. My worth is not dependent upon my feelings, nor what I perceive other people think of me.
Even if after all the endevours of my life amount to nothing, my life is still invaluable. Who I am is more than what I think of me, or even the choices I make. And this is due to the inherent dignity I have in being human, made in the image and likeness of God. I do forget this and instead fallaciously remind myself negatively of how I hardly compare to others around me. It is disordered thinking, because not only do I have dignity from being Created, but I have also been Redeemed. And these indelible marks on my soul are more important than anything on earth can provide me.
Comparison and the Deadly Sins
The comparison game, though. It’s a difficult one to ignore. Comparison is the love-child of envy, pride, and greed. It’s never a place one chooses to go (in my experience), it’s more like getting lost while wandering in a strange city and wondering either ‘Do I stay here until help comes?’ or ‘which is the way I get myself out of here?’ The problem is the window-shops – they all look so pretty. They draw me in to stay awhile. But their cost is too high.
It all comes down to choice. I can choose happiness. It is similar in the way that love is a choice. Feelings, though insightful, are not good determinations for how to live out life. They should never be ignored because they point to something within us, but they do not need to be what determine our actions. I can choose how I act, no matter how I feel at the time. And this actually reveals my true humanity better than just reacting. But it is hard. It is the narrow path, as is evidenced by so many people I encounter.
By no means am I great at this, but it is at least grounded in me. I am not unaware of the breadth of my ability to choose. But, sometimes, the feelings can overtake me. I just need to get up off the ground and get back on the horse, bruises and all.
I might feel like I amount to nothing sometimes, but it’s a lot of ‘nothing’ that’s here, and I actually like it quite a bit. Maybe I’m still a mustard seed, waiting for the right time to be a tall bush. I don’t know. But it is enough.