A dear friend once said that we spend a great deal of time comparing our insides to the outsides of others. We see from across the room a beautiful woman, see her toss her head back with laughter and a grace we don’t possess. Surely, we think, she’s got it all. That family over there, well, it must be nice to create Pinterest moments every day. That guy at the coffee shop, he’s just living the dream, hanging out there all day every day with his computer and his ultra chic yet rugged and storied attache.
It seems from experience, and since I’m a female and I’ve never been a male, that we women know this terrible trap of compare and contrast all too well. Social media is a veritable nightmare in this way. Worse than sitting across the room from a tangible human that we could actually go and talk to, introduce ourselves to, open up the opportunity to see the real words of the story, social media outlets allow us to stalk hundreds of posts, threads, and photographs and sit in the privacy of our own stew to pontificate about whatever. Oy vey.
I had an exchange through email this past week with a dear and true friend. In a place of deep and strange oppressive thinking, I cried out for a lifeline, asking for prayer and an assurance that she could at least see the real me somewhere underneath the tangled mess. She was right there across miles and time zones with a quick response, and I sat huddled in the privacy of my closet while I clamored to read and absorb her words. Tears fell. She saw me all right, and I knew I was not alone. Unfortunately, in a place of trepidation, it was hard to receive her response. What she delivered back to me was her presence, and the reality that my naked exposure reminded her that the real me was there in spite of the image she had formed in her mind. That same kind of “they are doing this and that” and “I’m only doing this and that,” that same kind of compare and contrast that had–most assuredly, in retrospect–led me to my closet, hiding with my sobs and deep anxieties. I could not hear properly, and her words added to my fears and internal disqualifying dialogue. I thought, you mean that’s how you see me? that’s how I’m portraying myself? Evidence that isolation is by far the safest option.
A few days later, I confessed to another friend how I had withdrawn that day, in spite of the knowledge that I did have places in my present geography where my heart would have been safe. I told her how utterly under-dressed I had felt that oppressive closet day. We talked about the ways that we conceal our hearts, because who wants to look the fool, the needy weirdo who keeps emotionally limping the same way, the bad parent, the suck-y wife, the doubting believer.
And so we sit. So I sit. Isolated heart. Envying the bravery of those I know. Guessing their stories based on their outsides compared to my wrecked insides. Sure, sometimes my guesses aren’t inaccurate. But it doesn’t matter, because my heart is locked up like a vault and their hearts are unknown to me. I miss out. They miss out. A whole bunch of guarded and self-protective half-selves walking around in doubt of our true identities. Isolated sitters.
Deceived, and fulfilling a great plan of the Enemy, we are. I am. Spitting justified rants of unbelief in the face of God, as if His words of new life in Christ do not declare something over us. As if His words do not hold weight at all. Disguised and false humility, pride incognito. Fear of others based on things we only think we know, at least much of the time. Thinking too much, loving too little. A terrible offender in this way, I am.
God, forgive me. Forgive me.
For not trusting God enough to rest in His estimation of me and asking others to tell me who I am. For comparing and contrasting and withdrawing. For hiding in fear. My insides ache to know and be known. For ways that I hoped you could possibly be what only God can be and is for the scraggly parts of my heart, forgive me. For ways that I wasn’t honest outwardly enough for you to know that marriage is hard and parenting makes me buckle so fast, that I’m a recovering yell-er, that moving is something I nearly despise, that my faith is a tattered sail so very often–forgive me.