“I hate to pretend like everything is OK when it isn’t. And when I compare myself to others, I hate that my life is the roughest. I’m just so tired of it all.”

Have you ever had those thoughts of comparison, thinking no one has it as bad as you, but still you work at coming across like everything in your life is just fine or even great?

I know. I’ve been there, done that.

So I want to shout this out: “Every person should focus on compassion and let go of comparison because of two tremendous freedoms.”

Compassion releases JOY

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First, freedom comes by showing compassion to others, rather than comparing and thinking: “Surely, no one else’s life sucks as much mine?” or “I know I’m not perfect, but I certainly have more of life together than that person and their sucky life.”

Being transparent with our lives to God, ourselves and others brings freedom to live compassionately, giving us peace and joy that we all long for.

I had a scary and difficult season of anxiety attacks and depression. The hole was dark and deep, yet I came through by the love of God and others who reached out to offer me hope. I am better and stronger from this experience. I now can reach into the lives of others and help them because God allowed that season in my life.

He used the time to teach and bless me on many different levels. I now come alongside others who are in this trial with love and offer the same hope offered to me. I can simply sit with someone and just “be,” by giving grace and not yet another Bible verse that other well-meaning people may want to give.

It’s the person who’s been in and out of the hole who knows what is most needed: “You will pass through this season, you are loved and you are not alone.”

The more I share my own missteps and failures, the more I’m able to share the hope of Christ. When you’re hurting you don’t need a person delivering, “You should do this.” What you need is the person who can say, “I’ve been there and I understand. Look at 2 Corinthians 1:4 stating the truth. “There is God who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the same comfort we received.”

As far as being a “Christian” goes, those matured and with depth are the ones who have failed and have learned to live with their failures and walk with hope.

Comparison is the thief of JOY

Second, freedom comes by knowing who God says we are. We have to look at who we are and how God uniquely made us. I think if we don’t have that safe place of authenticity to be real and ask God, “What is it that makes me unique?” we fail and fall into comparing ourselves to others.

Don’t all “good” moms like to bake, sew, craft and garden? Well, God tells me I am a good mom and I don’t do any of those things. When my four boys were younger, I asked them one year what they wanted for Christmas cookies. They thought for a moment and replied with Fig Newtons and Chips Ahoy. Good. Done.

The next year, the church family ladies discovered my lack of baking skills and we have since never been wanting for a brilliant display and variety of the best Midwest baking there is. I was shown compassion for being a “nonbaker,” but in turn I can prepare a “mean” chicken dish and cheesy potatoes, which I’ve brought to a young mom in need.

God doesn’t need me to be heard on the radio, write books or be a speaker. He loves us for who we are and not for what we do. He gives us purpose with the gifts He has given us, simply because he loves us.

When we compare our lives, our calling, our reach, we fence in what God can do. I just try and follow Galatians 6:4: “ Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.” It’s being mindful of the gifts and work God has called me for, and not what I or anyone else thinks I should do. He’s the brilliant one. He created us.

I do remember looking in the mirror of the junior high smoker girl’s bathroom in eighth-grade and thinking I wasn’t enough. I had zero curves –- no butt, no boobs -– except for the curve of my scoliosis. I was different, not like other girls. I didn’t fit in.

As I was scrutinizing myself in the full-length mirror, out of one of the stalls came ninth-grader Jenny Baker. She stopped, took one look and said, “You don’t have to look, you know you’re pretty.” Shen then turned and left. I had no idea what she was talking about, but soon understood that I was her target to bully. Julie was comparing her “inside” to my “outside” and her view was that “I was more than enough.”

I think we all have been in that place thinking, “Am I enough?” There’s this fear that we are unworthy and unlovable because of our past or present failures, and so we believe lies that there’s something about us that is so unlovable we couldn’t possibly be vulnerable to share who we are.

Transparency and honesty about who I am and where I’ve been have helped me to stop comparing, so I can instead live with compassion for others. I am able to do this by receiving God’s grace and love for me despite myself.

The theater also played a huge role in my life because it was a place I was able to learn much about myself and others, and the importance of authenticity in relationships. It’s by God’s grace that I’m able to live a life on stage, being dramatic while serving him. God is so good. So, this is what I’ve learned as a performer, director, teacher, wife, mom and everyday girl for more than 25 years.

“Someone is always in need of someone else’s transparency.” Hurting people hurt people, and broken people help people. When I speak of brokenness, I speak of our pride being broken and removing our masks to become honest and vulnerable and better able to empathize with others.