10 years ago, the heartache and tears following a break up was the hardest thing I had ever been through. I felt and mourned deep loss of romance and friendship. I cried and rarely felt like leaving my apartment. I became quite literally sick with grief.
5 years ago, social and relational anxiety was the hardest thing I had ever been through. I was a newlywed navigating unknown territory of what it meant to be a wife, as well as what it meant to have and love a husband. I had just moved across the country and I was completely immersed in a new culture, climate, and circle of friends. My deep southern roots slowly adjusted to the fast paced diversity of the Silicon Valley. I cried nearly every single day for an entire year. I wasn’t sad and I wasn’t miserable. Rather, I was deeply unsure of myself, and my new role in this drastically differently life.
3 years ago, new motherhood, breastfeeding, and Post Partum Anxiety were the hardest things I had ever been through. They brought me to my knees and threatened my stability. I had entered motherhood expecting my transition to be natural and effortless. However, in the first year, I gulped equal amounts water and air, as I struggled to keep my head just above the surface. Intrusive thoughts petrified and immobilized me. In the first 3 months, my daughter screamed from 30 minutes to 5 hours every single time I attempted to feed her. I was guilt ridden, scared, and exhausted.
1 year ago, giving birth to my stillborn son, Keller NormanBartlett, was the hardest thing I had ever been through. My husband and I shattered as we labored to bring his lifeless body into this world. Words are insufficient to describe this type of pain and sudden, shocking loss. The days, weeks, and months to follow have often been battlefields – ridden with pain attacks, depression, and anger.
Comparison is an evil and deceptive enemy. It lies and tells us that our joy is insufficient and our pain is inconsequential. Even worse, it deceives us into thinking our friends and family’s joys are mediocre and their pain minute in comparison to whatever battle you yourself may be facing.
As mothers, I think we are especially susceptible to falling into the pit of comparison. We are bombarded with pictures, videos, and stories detailing the “highlight reel” of other family’s lives. Without much thought, we can trip into the darkness of believing we need more (clothing, housing, activities, romance, holiness) in order to achieve the “same level” of happiness, contentment, and joy. We rob ourselves of the abundance and goodness surrounding us. Comparison literally blinds us. We become incapable of realizing and accepting our own joy.
Equally, we are very often met with the darkest and most painful moments in other’s lives. Newsfeeds are filled with “case of the Mondays” hardships, personal confessions of struggle and depression, prayer requests for heartache, and the deep groaning’s of death. The corruption of comparison reaches to pain as well.
10 years ago, the hardest thing I had ever faced was – simply – a break up. The trials and hardships I have faced since, can and have caused me to scoff and mock my 20 year old self. I had “no idea what true pain was”. This is false and caustic comparison. 10 years ago – the heartache of that lost friendship brought me to my knees. I wept to God that He would mend that relationship. He didn’t. He knew the pain and growth were far more beneficial than a temporary patching of my heart. Many who had known far greater pain, could have grinned and said “there, there”. They didn’t. They hunkered down by my side, saw my pain for what it was – the hardest thing I had ever been through – and prayed, and loyally and patiently kept by my side.
As mothers, it is difficult to meet the pain of other mothers and not compare it to your own.
“At least their baby doesn’t have colic!”
“At least they have parents near to help out.”
“At least their husband is home!”
“It’s just a stomach bug…”
“I wish my kid only woke up twice a night.”
We see the pain of others and almost instinctively compare it to our own struggle (or at least I do). We minimize the pain of others because poisonous comparison has entered into our hearts.
Conversely, we can see the pain of others and minimize our own pain and hardships.
“I only have one kid – this shouldn’t be so hard.”
“I know my baby only wakes up once – why am I so tired? Why is this so hard?”
“None of my kids are chronically ill – I shouldn’t be struggling so much just because they’ve had a cold for 2 weeks.”
“A miscarriage is common – so many women have had them – why do I feel so sad for so long?”
“My family is close by and so many people don’t have thatkind of help – I shouldn’t be having to fight depression so hard.”
Your battles are hard simply because they are the hardest thing you are going through.
God sees your pain and reaches out with perfect love and compassion. He isn’t sitting on high telling you to “get over it” because He’s seen and experienced “much worse”. He just sees brokenness and pain and meets it with love. He effortlessly understands that this trial is the hardest battle you have faced, and He is ready to carry you through the waves of any storm you may face. ANY STORM. He doesn’t see a small difficulty and think, “That’s nothing. Seriously, handle it yourself.” He just offers his hand. Every single time.
I pray that time, wisdom, experience and God’s mercy can scrub the stains of constant comparison from my heart. I want to see the heartache of others and meet it with compassion – not comparison. There is such power joining joy to joy and heartache to heartache. Seeing other’s battles as the hardest thing they are facing is empowering. It validates each other’s struggles and creates a network of love and trust that can move mountains.
Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. Amen, right? Rather than defaulting to the thievery of comparison, let’s work towards the compassion of God.
“He’s the one who comforts us in all our trouble so that we can comfort other people who are in every kind of trouble. We offer the same comfort that we ourselves received from God.” –II Corinthians 1:4