I was 21 when I left Facebook. I was in my penultimate year of university, and I had had enough. Everyone else’s life was going somewhere; they had great grades, minimum five hundred fabulous friends and were in relationships that could be compared to Posh and Becks. I did not know where my life was headed, had not got into my first choice university, and a relationship; forget it.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, even blogs portray a selected insight into people’s lives:
“Social media is a highlights reel of everyone else’s life. You have to live with the outtakes of your own.” Kenton Beshore
But somehow this truth does not sink in, while we know that the picture perfect photo of us hides an argument that morning with our mum, a carefully concealed spot on our nose and a splitting headache, we do not know the background behind the information displayed on our NewsFeed, so we assume there isn’t one. And thus we become dissatisfied with our life; dissatisfied with who God made us; and dissatisfied with God.
A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. Proverbs 14:30
And while this dissatisfaction is dangerous when internalised, once it hits the external it is life threatening; not just for ourselves but also for others.
God made us unique. He perfectly equipped us for His purpose for our life. He loves us. But the minute we start to compare ourselves to other people, we take our eyes off Him and His dreams for us. Even worse, when we start to change the way we are to look better on our profile, or to fulfil what everyone else is telling us to do, we miss out on the chance to partner with Him for His Kingdom. The writer of Ecclesiastes wrote of this phenomenon 4,000 years before Mark Zuckerberg even conceived the concept of Facebook!
4 And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Ecclesiastes 4:4.
When we are compelled to do something because someone else is doing it, and it isn’t really what we are meant to be doing, while we might ultimately achieve, it is hard work to do so, and ultimately it is meaningless. It will come to nothing. When the world passes away, our ‘achievements’ that were not for God’s glory will pass away with it.
Robert Madu cites the example of Saul. Saul was King of Israel and everything about him was majestic and made for the role; he looked like a King, literally ‘head and shoulders above the rest’ (1 Samuel 9:2), he was chosen and anointed by God and even given a new heart: he was perfectly equipped for his given role.
But it goes wrong.
Firstly, Saul tries to fulfil the prophet Samuel’s role and offer sacrifices to God (1 Samuel 13). Saul is scared as the people are deserting him and so, rather than wait for Samuel to offer the sacrifice Saul does it himself. Perhaps he has become discontented with just being King and thinks he would rather play Samuel’s role, or perhaps he doesn’t trust that if God has called him to be King then it will be OK even if the people all desert Him, so he acts on his own accord and offers sacrifices. Then Samuel arrives and announces that Saul’s Kingdom will not last.
After David has defeated Goliath, Saul compares himself to David.
‘He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” 9 And Saul eyed David from that day on.’
And this leads to a bitterness that hurts his family, his Kingdom, and most of all Saul himself. The rest of the account of Saul’s leadership is less about his Kingdom and more about his pursuit of David. And while this is in part due to the Messianic prophecies contained in David’s Kingship, it also shows that Saul took his eyes off his calling, and as a consequence he missed out. God had a great plan for Saul, and perfectly equipped His chosen King, but because Saul wanted to be someone else he never saw God’s plan come to pass. The bigger picture worked out OK; God can work everything for good, but He had to raise up somebody else, and there was pain and loss of leadership to get there.
I don’t want to end up like Saul, anointed and gifted for a purpose but missing the mark. It is an experience common in our society ; trying to be sylphlike we end up in hospital wards (in the 12 months to January 2016, there were 19.1million hospital admissions for eating disorders.) Trying to get the stable career and salary dictated by the press and society we work ourselves onto anti depressants and sleeping pills while slogging long hours in the City**. Social media is not solely to blame, we are bombarded with comparison all the time, but trying to live up to others’ expectations steals and destroys rather than giving the ‘abundant life’ we actually desire.
Ultimately, I don’t have the answer for you; I don’t even have the answer for me. All we can do is do our best to guard against comparison. To cling to the truth that you are known and dearly loved by God (The only mirror we should be using is the mirror of His word (James 1:23)). Root yourself in the truth of who He says you are. And to be You! Know that you are fearfully and wonderfully made and the world desperately needs your unique contribution.
**I am not saying that depression and insomnia are solely caused by comparison or that working hard is a bad thing, but we need to search our motivation and God’s calling on our lives.
Stay in Your Lane, Robert Madu, HTB Leadership Conference 2015. https://lc17.alpha.org/node/116
Comparison: The Thief, Kenton Beshore, Mariners 24 January http://www.marinerschurch.org/irvine/messages/art-of-relationships/comparison-the-thief/