Nasty Vents, Pretty Trees and the Comparison Trap


I had one of those productive Saturday’s where I woke up with energy and began cleaning with gusto. The dust bunnies were going down. One of those days where I was sick of the dust and grime and ready to whip my house into shape and conquer the mess. In my cleaning frenzy, I noticed my return vent in the dining room. With absolutely no exaggerating, I can say- it was atrocious. Maybe I hadn’t cleaned it in…..well, somewhere between four years and ever. So, imagine the worst. Because that’s what it was. Now, I feel no personal shame about this because I am a working mom and also, it’s a return vent- who remembers to clean those?? But, as I sat down with a soapy bucket of water to rid the nastiness in my line of sight was also my beautifully decorated Christmas tree. The contrast between the disgusting vent and the festive, lovely tree was striking.

Both were true at the same moment. In my home I had beauty and filth. The prettiest and the ugliest parts staring me in the face and it hit me- this is the ridiculousness of comparing lives on social media (or at all). We end up staring at each others Christmas tree’s and feeling ashamed of the return vents. But, if we are honest, we all have both. There are parts of my home and my life which wonderfully reflect the image of God and the talents he has given me, just as there are parts that show my broken sinful nature and limits in ability. I began thinking about all the insecurity and jealousy and discontent we stir up in ourselves by comparing our worst to their best. And it made me angry at how we miss the opportunity to celebrate other’s beauty because we are ashamed and fearful of our ugly.

I am not afraid to name my stuff. I have learned to own it and I share it. My closest friends, my community group women and my family know I am sinful and full of limits. But, in an attempt to show we have no need to compare to each other or hide from each other- I’ll name some of it right here: self righteousness, fear and anxiety, codependency, emotional eating, lack of self control and speaking the whole truth. That’s sin stuff I battle and pray about and confess very regularly. Then there are limits- I have mediocre handwriting, cannot do anything involving hand-eye coordination, have a terrible sense of directions, am forgetful and rarely get birthday cards out on time, have almost no artistic ability (save a cool cartoon penguin I can draw!), tendinitis in my right elbow, high cholesterol and hair that gets gray way too fast lately. Oh and a poochy stomach and one million stretch marks!

None of those truths negate that I am fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of my Creator. I have talents and beauty at the same time that I have weakness and sin. Same life; same house. I don’t think the solution is to stop posting pictures of our good stuff or start posting pictures of the ugly- I mean, ya’ll don’t want to see that vent- it was gross. Rather we need to remember that the pictures we post and the statuses we share that Celebrate beauty and love and order and fun can’t possibly be the whole picture of anyone’s life because we all need a Savior. We do not have to feel insecure about our friends good moments because trust me- their homes and their lives have the same stuff yours and mine do- Broken and beauty will always be together until Jesus returns. Instead we can celebrate the good with each other and encourage one another with truth- we are all flawed and all loved. Both true at the same time.

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