Many of us spend hours of our week scrolling through pictures on newsfeeds and, though we're looking at edited, filtered snapshots of someone's life, we make deductions and arrive at conclusions without even realizing we're doing so.
The Problem Is with the Onlookers
Remember those pandas? The problem wasn't with the pandas—the problem was with the people looking at them. Though the illustration is limited, I believe the same is true in social media: the problem isn't with the friend who posts a cute image of her family. The problem is with us when we foolishly believe that a pretty picture means a perfect life.
Have you ever considered why we're so quick to look at a picture and arrive at conclusions? We do it all the time, don't we? We're scrolling through pictures on a newsfeed and, though all we see is an edited, filtered snapshot of time, we arrive at conclusions often without even knowing we're doing so.
Sometimes it actually takes more humility to see the ways that we're doing well than it does to see the ways we continue to fail.
No life is perfect. No family is perfect. No spouse is perfect. No home is perfect. We all have struggles. We all have brokenness. We all fail. We all sin. (Rom. 3:23) That is true of every person and every family.
People sometimes look at my family and think there's something picture-perfect about us. I know this because people tell me. And though I would never want to minimize the profound blessing of beautiful children and a husband who is a godly, great guy, the truth is that my family is not perfect, and neither is yours. Up close, you'll see all the ways that our fur is less than sparkling white. And up close, I'll see all those things about you, too.
Are We Looking Closely Enough?
Years ago when I was a university student, I was part of a small church plant. We all spent lots of time at our pastor's home. Their home was always peaceful, grace-filled, and orderly. Though they never tried to present themselves this way, they were a picture-perfect family in many ways.
I remember saying to my pastor's wife one time, "I'm so impressed. I've never seen your bathroom even the tiniest bit dirty." She paused for a moment before looking at me and simply saying, "Oh Elisha, if you haven't seen where it's dirty, it's just because you're not looking closely enough." Though her words stayed with me even then, I don't think I fully understood the meaning of them until years later. She wasn't just talking about her bathroom, she was talking about life.
What This Does Not Mean
This does not mean that there aren't individuals, married couples, or families that aren't truly grace-filled. There are! Your family or my family might even be one of them. This is a subtle but important point because sometimes it actually takes more humility to see the ways that we're doing well than it does to see the ways we continue to fail.
There really are people and families that overflow with God's grace. When we see the beauty of Christlikeness, whether in an individual or in a marriage, we ought to identify it, be inspired by it, and even pattern ourselves after it. (1 Cor. 11:1) Acknowledging that we're all sinners and encounter struggles is not to say that maybe your family or my family isn't one that has truly known grace and growth. It's just that, even while seeing the beauty and grace of another, we ought to remember this simple but easy to miss reality: my family isn't perfect and neither is yours.
What This Does Mean
What this does mean is that when your friend posts a picture of the red roses her husband spontaneously brought home for her, you don't need to wonder why her life is perfect and yours isn't. Her life may be good. It may even be great, or it may not be. A picture or a status doesn't have the capacity to communicate complexity. (Of course it doesn't! Of course a real live panda bear wouldn't be dazzling white, right?)
One thing is certain: that friend of yours, she has her own set of struggles, her own sorrows, her own shortcomings, her own sin. And far from taking any delight in the reality that her life is imperfect, you can simply be free to rejoice alongside of her that her husband did something sweet for her. Remembering that we're all imperfect can be wonderfully freeing. It can free us from comparison, and it can free us to genuinely delight in the sweet words or pictures that our friends post.
Not Comparing But Rejoicing
When we get this truth, it becomes much more instinctive to truly rejoice in the good moments that belong to others. We become free to post images without the pretense of pretending we are perfect. More importantly, we become free to enjoy the good things given to others without continually comparing ourselves to our friends.
When we truly rejoice in the good moments that belong to others, we become free to enjoy the good things given to others without continually comparing ourselves to our friends.
So, next time you scroll through your newsfeed and your friend posts a picture of all the jars of homemade blueberry jam she spent her day making, you don't need to wonder if she's a super mom or feel threatened by her productivity. You can just be happy for her.
Or that other friend who just got a great job? She's not saying her life is perfect. She's just thankful, and you can be thankful with her.
Or what about the friend who just posted pictures of her daughter's pinterest-worthy birthday party? She's probably not bragging and saying she's got it all together. You don't need to compare yourself to her. Just appreciate the gifts God has given her.
Or when that other friend posts a picture of her date night with her husband and they both look beautiful and happy? They're not claiming a perfect marriage but just enjoying a night out. It's so incredibly freeing, not to mention biblical, to be happy with those who are happy. (Rom. 12:15)
The world—and sometimes our own heart—wants to tell us that we're all in competition with each other to have that perfect, better-than-yours life. It's time we reject that lie and choose to rejoice. The temptation to compare, compete, and be jealous of the good things given to others isn't new. What's new is that technology and social media has given us a new way to be feel this old temptation. Yet there's no temptation for which there isn't also eternal truth:
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor (Rom. 12:10).
Love is almost always the answer. Instead of comparing ourselves to one another let us love one another.
What are some other ways we can intentionally rejoice at the good things—snapshots or not—that others have been given?