I don’t know about you, but lately I’m finding the Internet to be an increasingly hostile place. It seems that we’ve all lost our ability to think and disagree in a civil manner and so we resort to ripping other people to shreds behind the relative safety of our computer screens. We type things we’d never say to another human being face to face. We spew forth cruelty and disrespect like our lives depend on it sometimes. We tell people that they are worthless and our words reduce them to tears and anger and insecurity. I’ve seen this going on so much lately and it is truly heartbreaking. I’ve watched my incredible friends think that they are terrible people because one “friend” on Facebook decided that they needed taking down a peg. I’ve seen amazing women share their personal stories and be ripped apart in the comments section. Heck, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve even been told by some lovely random commenters here on my corner of the Internet that my sweet Congolese son would have been better off dead in an orphanage than to have me for a mother (among many, many other mean spirited and horrific things). I think that there is a major problem when we begin telling people that we don’t really know that they deserve for their children to die. It's enough to make a person never want to open their mouth again for fear of being torn apart.
I started thinking about why we love to hate people. I’ll admit- I do it, too. I read an article about Victoria Beckham choosing a fruit plate over birthday cake and I thought to myself, “Geez! Just eat the damn cake! I can’t stand women like that!” When really, this woman’s personal choice has nothing in the world to do with me. I don’t know her. She may just really like fruit. Or maybe she can’t have gluten and the cake in front of her wasn’t gluten free. Who knows? Her choosing fruit does not affect me in any way, shape or fashion. Really, it boils down to the fact that I’m disappointed that I don’t have the will power to pick fruit over cake and so I want to get mad at someone who can because something in my brain tells me it will make me feel better to lash out.
I find myself doing that with crafters. I’ve got nothing against crafters but I can’t craft (or cook, or keep a very clean house, or stay organized, blah, blah, and blah). So I look at women who have these beautiful scrapbooks and these cutesy crafts around their homes and who can throw together a kid’s birthday party that looks like it was all professionally done. It’s not my gift. So I spout off and say things like “Uggggh! I wish I had the kind of time to do that!” or “She is such an overachiever. Who does she think she is?” Again, I can’t do it, so I lash out at those who can. But does tearing down a crafter or a birthday party throwing goddess make me any more able to craft or throw a killer party? Nope. Not a bit. The logic just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t even make me feel better to vocalize it or type it or stew about it. It’s toxic- for me and for the people on the receiving end of my venom. That woman who is a crafting queen is not crafting to spite me- she’s doing it because it’s her passion and that is how she finds joy in her life. Who am I to argue with that?
I think it’s why we love to hate people like Tim Tebow. Tim is doing a bang up job being the person that he thinks God wants him to be. Yesterday I saw an article about a website that is offering a 1 million dollar bounty to the woman who can take Tim’s virginity and show the documentation to prove it. Tearing people down and derailing the path they’ve created for their lives is becoming a lucrative sport. Does Tim’s virginity affect our daily lives? Not one iota. But we for some reason feel like it is our mission to take someone who is living the life they want to live and drag them through the mud.
It’s why people hate Michele Duggar. I’ve written about that before, HERE. The joy that she finds in her children makes us feel inadequate about the joy that we sometimes don’t find in our own children.
It’s why we take someone else’s pain and we mock it because it doesn’t seem to be as great as our pain and so we discount their very real feelings. We judge each other on a hierarchy over who has the right to be the most miserable. We think that pain is on a continuum and that we can put people on a sliding scale while we forget that no matter where someone is on our “scale” their pain is very real to them.
It’s why a New York City school system will no longer allow it’s seniors to tell their friends when they get accepted into an IvyLeague school because it makes the other students feel bad.
We’ve lost our ability to celebrate with others while failing to realize that another person’s success does not mean that we are failures! I don’t think that I had a friendship until I was about 27 years old where a friend would come to me with good news where I didn’t feel some twinge of jealousy. Jealousy makes us do crazy things. Feelings of inadequacy make us do crazy things. I found myself when we were in the throes of a rough adoption transition with our son, actually being angry at families whose children were settling into a family easily. It made me pull away from them. How ugly is it that I was actually mad that some people’s kids were thriving? It was icky! It took me a really long time to realize that because someone else’s children were doing well, it didn’t mean that I was a failure. It didn’t mean that my child was bad. It didn’t mean that I was less deserving of an ideal family- it just meant that things were going to happen in their own time and that wasn’t in juxtaposition of someone else’s happy, joyful, easy transition. For us to be happy it doesn’t mean that someone else needed to be miserable.
A few months ago, I had the privilege of hearing Jon Acuff speak at a conference. He said something that had a profound impact on me. He said that the reason that we get so down on ourselves is because we often compare our middle to someone else’s ending and our low to someone else’s high. Last week I asked my friends on Facebook what made them feel inadequate (as a mother and as a person) and every single one of the thirty or so responses was some variation of how we compare ourselves to others. With Facebook and Twitter and blogs and chat rooms and yada, yada, yada, it is SO EASY to fall into the comparison trap. We look at an opportunity that someone else got and it makes us feel crappy. We tell ourselves that we are awful people but the truth is- you are just as deserving of the same opportunity and it just isn’t your time yet. We look at someone else’s “My kids just ate a plateful of zucchini and they hate sugar” status and it makes us feel terrible about what we feed our kids. The truth is that it is awesome that today that kid ate zucchini and tomorrow he may hate it and that person will probably never make their status say, “My kid hates zucchini and only wants to eat sugar.”
With this online world- we compare our mundane day to day with everyone else’s highlight reel. We are all guilty of it. After all, nobody likes to broadcast their shortcoming to the world. We never say “I have 45 piles of dirty laundry and haven’t worked out in 6 months”. Nope- instead we wait until that one day that we are really on fire and we say, “The house is spotless, the laundry is done, I packed homemade, organic lunches for the kids, had mind blowing sex with my husband and burned 6 billion calories at the gym! And it’s not even 7 am!” And then everyone that reads that status who is sitting in their dirty home with the kids eating school lunch who hasn’t even looked their husband in the eye for a week suddenly feels bad about themselves. We don’t throw a kudos to that woman who is just killing it at that specific moment in time because we see her success as a measure of our failure. It’s so much easier (and a good defense mechanism) to loath her for having a really good day.
What we fail to recognize is that each person has those times where life just sucks and times when it’s just all falling into place. It’s just a part of living in a fallen world. It’s part of being human. We seem to forget that it’s human nature to tell of our victories and gloss over the ugly parts. We forget that in being vulnerable there is camaraderie so we want to keep our baggage at bay and only show the pretty side. Yes- there will always be people who want to tear you down. Yes, if you are blogger, there will be people who will take your words and skew them and knock you down and attack you. Yes, if you are on any kind of social media site, people will create drama to bring others down. Yes, if you’ve got a mother, brother, aunt, dad, friend- there will always be someone that seems to be doing it better than you. But really aren’t we all just doing the best that we can with what we know?
It goes back to the crafter, and the fruit plate eater, and the Tim Tebows. If I let those people find unadulterated joy in what they love and find comfort in what they believe, I am helping them create their highlight reel. If I project my inadequacies on them, I’ve done nothing but ruin their joy without adding any joy to my own life. I have to remind myself of that all the time. I have to remind myself that I am only an expert in my own life, my own story, my own family and my own experience. Sometimes this means I’m on fire. Sometimes this means that I need to step away and realize that what is best for my family and my children is not what is right for someone else’s family. Sometimes this means that even when I’m bitter and critical, it does not give me the right to steal someone else’s joy or to discount their feelings. We tell our children to keep their hands to themselves. As adults, sometimes we need to be reminded to keep our venom to ourselves. We've all been on both sides of the venom and neither side is pretty.
How awesome would it be if we gave an ‘atta girl to our friends when they deserved it instead of letting her successes and joys fuel our own feelings of inadequacy? How awesome would it be if we spent even a fraction of the time we spend gossiping and ripping each other to shreds with our backhanded comments on building each other up and affirming one another instead? Even when we don't agree with someone's beliefs or decisions, we can still affirm them as people. How about we let other people be the experts on their own stories without telling them how to feel and minimizing their feelings? How about I let you be the awesome you that you are- and you let me be me?
How about we each realize that we are worthy? How about we each looked at the job we are doing with our lives/ our children/ our significant other/ our circumstances and say, “I might not do it perfectly, but I am still the perfect person for this job.” What if we could find as much joy in watching each other’s highlight reels as we do in putting together our own highlight reels? What if we stopped feeling like our own negative experience with something should dictate the happiness that someone else feels about that same experience. What if we all honestly believed that we were absolutely enough and that our being enough didn’t depend on anything else but finding our own bliss. What would happen if we realize that we can’t make our own candle burn brighter by blowing out someone else’s. How about we all make the commitment to fan someone else’s flame today and make them burn brighter. I wonder how much brighter our own candles can burn when we catch the after affects of fanning someone else’s flame. I’ll bet it would be amazing. Let’s do it. You are enough. You are enough. You are enough.
Don't listen to those who say, "It's not done that way." Maybe it's not, but maybe you will. Don't listen to those who say, "You're taking too big a chance." Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor, and it would surely be rubbed out by today. Most importantly, don't listen when the little voice of fear inside of you rears its ugly head and says, "They're all smarter than you out there. They're more talented, they're taller, blonder, prettier, luckier and have connections…" I firmly believe that if you follow a path that interests you, not to the exclusion of love, sensitivity, and cooperation with others, but with the strength of conviction that you can move others by your own efforts, and do not make success or failure the criteria by which you live, the chances are you'll be a person worthy of your own respect.--Neil Simon