Pinterest wars. Facebook wars. Health food vs. budget wars. Mommy wars. Wife wars. Child-rearing-philosophy wars. Moms-with-fit-bods vs. moms-with-not-so-fit-bods wars.
Among all these, a theme emerges.
We as human beings sure love making ourselves feel better, don’t we?
Don’t we love to justify absolutely everything about ourselves, even if it means ridiculing others?
And we certainly are given to extremes. Don’t we often respond to our own failure either with vehement denial or with the fatalistic attitude that says there’s no point in trying to be better?
Remember the outrage back when this mother of three joined the “What’s Your Excuse?” campaign and was immediately met with a barrage of accusations from infuriated moms who said she was “fat-shaming?” I remember seeing her poster before all the controversy and the only thing that honestly crossed my mind was, “Wow, hot momma! Go her! It is possible!”
Sorry. Didn’t realize I was experiencing fat-shaming.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. Of course there are things I don’t like about my body. But clearly, that’s not Maria Kang’s fault. While she’s not the norm, I found her example inspiring and motivating. And back then, as a new mama-to-be, it reinforced my positive vision for staying healthy and fit during and after my own pregnancy.
It’s not just this story. Every other day my Facebook news feed attests to the fact that we women are quick to defend and excuse ourselves. Apparently, we do not often enjoy the success stories of others, because they make us feel like we have an inferior life. So we tell ourselves that no one posts pictures of their life as it really is, that every photo is airbrushed, that the love between that one couple is just a sham and they probably scream at each other all the time…
And, we counter with “reality.” (We like to call it “honesty,” because if there’s one thing we love more than making excuses, it’s making excuses and convincing ourselves that they are, in fact, virtues.) We pat each other’s backs for having at least semi-stable marriages; for barely managing to feed our children and get through the day without strangling them. We tell ourselves that we’re doing the right thing by “living life slowly,” even if that means ignoring the fact that our slothful lack of diligence drives our husbands crazy. We kid ourselves that we simply have our priorities in order, and that’s why the house consistently looks like the apocalypse.
Oh yes… we romanticize and even spiritualize our shortcomings.
We stand together, rallying against those nasty women who must be faking it because they can’t really be doing it all, sniping with cynicism that “No mom looks that good without surgery” and “No one’s kids are that obedient.”
I honestly think that if the Proverbs 31 woman were alive today, a massive amount of women who profess Christ would loathe her.
And why not? Because, as every one of us should be able to admit, responding this way makes us feel better about ourselves.
The problem couldn’t be within ourselves, right? The problem is all those people out there who “make us feel bad.” They are largely responsible for our own insecurities.
Are they? Really?
Let’s be real with ourselves for one moment and acknowledge a simple truth:
Whether another person’s life makes us feel guilty or inspired has less to do with them and has more to do with how we choose to respond to it.
The woman whose heart is secure in Christ– both in Who He is, and her value is His sight– has no need to lash out at another who is succeeding where she tends to fail. Rather, she knows how to genuinely “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15). She refuses to succumb to bitter jealousy. She takes the humble stance which admits that perhaps she could learn from someone else.
She can change. The woman for whom Jesus’ applause is the highest applause there is can also accept the areas she truly cannot change without cutting down those who are shining brightly in those same areas. She has a “we” mentality, not a “me versus them” mentality. She doesn’t take offense at everything, nor see every other woman as her competition.
Every woman I know agrees, “Oh, I hate how women compete with each other.” Yet there are women by the masses spitefully posting articles and blogs that pit themselves against the women who have it all together. Could it be that perhaps it’s the spiteful women who are actually the competitive ones?
The irony is almost amusing. A woman whose living room is a wreck feels ashamed about it because she sees a picture of Pinterest mom’s pristine living room… so she posts something passive-aggressively shaming moms with pristine living rooms, making Pinterest mom feel like a jerk and ashamed for having a clean living room…
You haven’t justified yourself very well, mom-with-a-wreck-of-a-living room. You’re just prideful. You don’t want to look bad or feel sub-par. And you feel defeated, like you couldn’t possibly do any more than you already are, so you decide that no one else can, either. That it must not be possible.
Here’s the thing… If you genuinely feel that it’s okay to have a wreck of a living room, you won’t have to justify yourself to moms with clean living rooms.
If you don’t feel that it’s okay, but it makes you feel like a failure so you just try to tell yourself and the world that everyone has a wreck of a living room, maybe you should take a step back. Swallow your pride. And learn from the moms with clean living rooms.
Oh, I know this is all very anti-trending.
Don’t get the idea that I don’t fully understand both sides. Don’t we all have good days and bad days? Don’t we all soar wonderfully in some areas and face-plant miserably in others? Of course.
The question is this: how should we respond when we see someone succeeding where we face-plant?
Aside from the Biblical mandate– which is to genuinely love that person, and therefore rejoice with them!– here are some practical ideas.
1.) Recognize that this other woman is not “making” you feel like a failure. No person can do so against your will. Don’t assign blame for your feelings of inadequacy. Consider that we really only resent the successes of others if we view them as our competition.
2.) Choose– choose!— to take what you can from her example, and leave the rest. Every family has different values and priorities, and these should ultimately be set by the head of your home: your husband. Let go of the stuff that does not apply or is not feasible for your situation. Regardless, think genuinely to yourself, “Good for her!” And put a smiley face with it.
3.) Remember that her heart is none of your business. If said woman is actually gloating about her victories (assuming this isn’t something you’ve merely imagined), resist the urge to take her down a notch. Remind yourself that it’s between her and God. Her attitude is likely not personal, even if it is prideful.
4.) When you fail, as absolutely everyone does, own up to it but do not beat yourself up. Know that we are all human… we are literally, hilariously, dust. (Psalm 103:14) Simultaneously, do not give up. Don’t give yourself such a break that you excuse laziness, bad habits, or a general trend of being a drag on your husband. Have the intestinal fortitude to own up to mistakes, not brood over them; and move onward and upward with purpose. (It will take time and intentionality to establish this new mindset if you’ve been in the habit of wallowing.)
5.) Whenever possible, learn from the strengths of others. If you struggle to be organized (hey, my hand’s in the air!), seek out that mom at church who does it well and make yourself a student of her skills. If you struggle to be fit and healthy, why not ask that mom how she lost the weight and got back in shape after pregnancy… instead of sighing with despair or hating her for what you simply assume is mere genetics? We will not all be equally strong in the exact same areas, but we can all improve our areas of weakness.
6.) Evaluate how much time you spend gazing at other people’s lives— and be honest about the reason behind it. Perhaps you do spend too much time stacking yourself up against others. While your attitude may be the main issue, it could also be that you obsess over things or demand truly unreasonable things of yourself. Know yourself and live accordingly. Maybe you need to chuck certain magazines in the trash, and eliminate or limit following certain social media accounts.
7.) Check your language and the heart behind it. Is it actually true that “nobody has it all together”? If we mean that no one is perfect, yes. But if we mean that no one is excellent, no. Every woman has areas of weakness, but many women do largely “have it all together” in their areas of strength. Sometimes we groom ourselves for mediocrity by the mantras we repeat without thinking.
Ultimately, who should we look to for how we live our lives? It might feel comforting to commiserate with others who subtly legitimize our failures. But why are we looking to them as our standard in the first place? There’s a whole lot more in Scripture praising the virtues of an excellent wife (Proverbs 31, 1 Peter 3, Titus 2) than about how to give ourselves a break when we’re a crummy one.
Maybe we should all read those passages regularly. The Proverbs 31 woman inspires me. 1 Peter 3 gives me a model of what “the holy women who hoped in God” were like. Titus 2 reminds me of how significant my job is; of the massive, eternal ramifications of how seriously I take my role of wife and mother. (It’s attached to the reputation of the Word of God!) That’s exciting stuff!
These passages call women to things that are “excellent” and “noble.” It is a call from what is to what can be. It is admirable when a woman works hard as she gives all of herself and endeavors to pursue and accomplish what God calls her to be and do. Don’t take jabs at such women.
The key is Jesus. If we want to please him, we will not be satisfied with being mediocre women. We will recognize that many times we fall short, yes. But we will not be satisfied with it. We will learn from it and look to Him for the strength to do better, not justify ourselves or collapse into a puddle of despair because our life doesn’t look like so-and-so’s.
Who are we living for, anyway?
Let’s live for the approval of Jesus. Another wife or mother having it all together is no threat to that.