“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Proverbs 14:30
Last Friday after picking up my first grade daughter from school, I asked about her day like I always do. With a a wistful voice and a sad look on her face, she told me her friend had gotten to a certain point level in Reflex Math. Noticing the envious tone, I asked her how many points she had. Not as many. She then informed me they keep track of their points on a white board in her classroom so they can see what everyone has achieved. I told her I was sorry and the subject changed.
But she didn’t forget. That weekend my sweet girl spent every free moment begging to use my laptop. When we told her she couldn’t be on the computer all the time (I don’t care if it’s math or not), she whined and cried and it became very clear that her motivation for doing Reflex Math had nothing to do with learning. She wasn’t going to be content until she surpassed her friend’s points.
After listening to her moan and groan most of the weekend about catching up with her friend, I opened up my Bible Monday morning and providentially read Proverbs 14:30. “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” I immediately thought to myself, why do we spend so much time comparing ourselves to our friends instead of focusing on what really matters? And even from such an early age?
Think about it. While at a play date we can do all of these things at once without breaking a sweat: Check out the fashionable and perfectly accessorized outfit of our friend and feel frumpy and fat in our jeans and t-shirt with the mommy badge of baby spit-up and slobber on the shoulder; watch said friend’s little girl–who is the same age as our own—politely share her toys and actually remember to say “please” and “thank you” without prompting while our two year old runs all over screaming like a banshee uttering unintelligible shrieks and grabbing the other kids’ toys; marvel at another friend’s ability to juggle being a doting wife who still puts love notes in the lunch she makes for her husband each morning, mothering three mildly mannered, always smiling children, keeping an immaculate and beautifully decorated home and baking up delectable and adorable Thanksgiving cookies that look like turkeys as we show up with a plate of store bought cookies and two kids in mismatched outfits full-knowing there is a tower of several days of dishes in the sink and a week’s worth of laundry on the floor at our house. Before we know it, the play date is over and we’ve missed out on a wonderful opportunity to participate in encouraging and edifying adult conversation because we were too busy stacking up our own weaknesses against our friends’ strengths.
Let’s be honest. We have all compared ourselves to someone at some point in our lives. And this comparison has sometimes driven us to take action that we might not otherwise take. Whether it’s working feverishly to gain more points than a friend, trying to dress more fashionably, attempting to bake from scratch, or even just getting the dirty dishes out of the sink before going to bed; acting out of envy eventually wears us out.
Maybe you do it every day. Maybe, like my daughter, it only happens when you are forced to stare at it in big, bold print on the “white board.” Whatever your “white board” may be, this week of Thanksgiving I want to encourage you to be thankful instead of comparing yourself to the people around you and feeling like you don’t measure up. Let’s not miss out because we are too busy coveting what everyone else has (which is a sin by the way; see Exodus 20:17). Let’s set ourselves free from our own expectations and the lies we have told ourselves (you know what they are) so we are open to what God has for us this holiday week. Remember, a heart at peace brings life, but envy will eventually steal all our joy. Jesus came that you might have abundant life, in your mommy sweatpants and all! I pray you rejoice in that and in Him today!