A couple of years ago, I was asked to speak at a local outlet of a national conference. I gave a short talk on the civic engagement of millennial women and then joined a small group of attendees at one of the tables that peppered the room. Everyone had been asked to discuss the topic just presented, and seeing that I was the presenter, it was more than a little awkward.
After a few seconds of silence as we shifted in our chairs, a middle-aged man in a Carhartt jacket spoke up. He said — and I can still hear it clear as day — “I just hate how women feel like they need to measure up to Rihanna on Instagram.”
This comment was so out of place that it felt like a scratched record, and we all whipped our heads around to face him. I stifled a giggle, because, really, did he just say we all want to be like Rihanna?
A woman named Joy (I looked at her name tag) cleared her throat. She had the look of a tired woman who was trying to do a good job at just about everything. What she said stunned me into nine months of introspection: “Honestly, I don’t think we hold Rihanna up as our idol. I think we try to measure up to other Christian women we see on social media — those women who are doing ‘big things’ for Jesus. It looks important, and who doesn’t want to serve the Lord?”
She had just been to a national leadership event and said she talked to many women who had similar concerns. You could tell it was weighing heavily on her spirit.
On our phones, we have a portal into the lives of any one of 2.62 billion people in the world who use social media.1 We can see our favorite movie star, not relegated just to the covers of magazines anymore, but creating her own content and publishing multiple times a day. We can peek into the day of our neighbors down the street, getting a glimpse at rooms of their houses we may never see in real life. We can follow the people we love, and we can follow the people we love to hate.
But the most tempting, I believe, is to look at women who are quite like us. We see them buying clothes that look like ours but are a little more expensive and cooking food that’s like ours but maybe tastes better. We see her serving, leading, and growing, and we may be tempted to feel that our lives don’t measure up anymore.
The university I attended regularly lauds “world changers” — Christians who have done big things for the Lord. There is even a little memorial in the library with the busts of these distinguished few. The problem with everyone thinking they need to change the world, though, is that very few of us ever really do that in a global kind of way.
The worlds we change are the tiny microworlds at our table, over the backyard fence, in the waiting room at the hospital ER. That kind of world changing isn’t as glamorous as a speaking tour or a nonprofit start-up or a side hustle. But that kind of world-changing work is how Jesus operated. He never sought a platform and actually often absolutely rejected the attention (see such passages as Matthew 9:30; Mark 1:43-44; Mark 3:12; Mark 5:43; Mark 8:30; and others).
Our reality is distorted by comparison.
We’re discouraged by what we would be thrilled about if we didn’t have anything else to compare it to. How sad is that? What we would consider an absolute success and a blessing to us and others in any other situation suddenly feels pale and small when we see the bright lights, hair, and makeup of someone else’s service.
1.“Number of Social Network Users Worldwide from 2010 to 2021,” The Statistics Portal, www.statista.com/statistics/278414/number-of-worldwide-social-network-users.
Excerpted with permission from Preach to Yourself by Hayley Morgan, copyright Hayley Morgan.
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Are you looking at the Christians around you feeling like they’re world-changers and you aren’t? Does it seem like what they are doing is important and what you are doing is… meh? How does comparison affect your Christian walk? Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily