Every few months, they test the fire alarms in my apartment building, and this entails two men standing in the hall with a broom handle for the better part of an hour.
The first time this happened–a few months into my lease–I was home from class and had no intention of trapezing through town to find a quieter location. Instead, I headed to the parking lot–where I made myself comfortable in my trusty Impala: legs sprawled across the front seat, forming a makeshift desk for my laptop as I listen to the persistent rain pelt against my roof. Every few minutes I found myself blankly staring out my front windshield, continuously painted by clear polka dots of varying intensities. The side windows oozed also the liquid confetti.
And, sitting on the inside looking out, the world looked distorted–altered by the water droplets contrasting with the glass. And it reminded me of life.
Because, you see, I sometimes feel that I am constantly combating pangs of envy.
I know it’s wrong. But as I scroll through social media, I can’t help but wish I looked more like her, lived more like them, had her talent for this or that, had a guy who looked at me that way or posted sweet posts like that. The comparisons and longings go on and on, and I always close out of these sites feeling less than fulfilled.
Because that’s the thing about social media: We polish our moments, searching for the prettiest or sweetest or funniest–whatever will scrounge up the most likes.
We only post the good. Never the ugly. Because nobody will like the bad.
And, even if we do post the “this-is-real-life” pictures of messy rooms or half eaten meals on dirty restaurant dishes , we make sure our captions overshadow the ugly, spewing poetic phrases about how “wonderful life is, even when it’s messy,” or how “blessed” we are to have such a real and imperfect life.
We think it’s better to appear perfectly put together. Like a puzzle. There’s nothing beautiful about all the pieces randomly thrown in the box–no rhyme or reason to the mess, no nature scene to look at–just rough edges. And we as humans don’t like to show our messy edges to the world either. Let them think we’re perfect. Let them be jealous.
And this false perfection that we so readily show the world distorts our views of each other, just as the rain distorts my view of the outside world.
“Your life must be perfect because your Instagram pictures are all coffee and kittens and rainbows” types of distortions.
“Ugh she’s so perfect I want to hate her” types of distortions.
“I can’t be honest about the hard stuff in life anymore” types of distortions.
“My life must be falling apart because it doesn’t look like his/hers” types of distortions.
And these distortions breed nothing but envy, contempt, bitterness, and dissatisfaction.
Because people are not perfect and life can be downright hard sometimes. It’s okay to celebrate little moments that make us feel good, but every single moment of our lives does not need to be perfect OR documented!
From the inside looking out, I know for a fact that I am light years away from the “perfect girl” I allow people to view me as from the outside looking in.
In fact, here in this very moment I am exhausted. I’m tired of trying to be an adult, of learning this juggling act of responsibility, of thinking of something new to make for dinner every. single. night., of worrying about money, of dealing with people, of not getting enough sleep no matter how good of intentions I have.
Life doesn’t have to get distorted thought. Over and over again the Bible warns against envy and discontentedness, and, what’s more, Hebrews 12:2 encourages us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus alone.
I’m not always my biggest fan. I know every mistake I’ve ever made, and I know that I don’t always live up to my potential–then I get jealous when I see others doing well. And, while it can be a disadvantage to be the one seeing yourself from the inside, it can also be an advantage;
because I get to see first hand how God is refining me from the inside out.