You know the feeling. You walk through the school gate, hitching at your clothes to straighten them and hoping your hair still looks the way it did at home. Seconds tick slowly by as you scan the playground for familiar faces.
Where are your friends?
Anxiety rises, causing your heart to beat a little faster. Some strangers pause mid-conversation, turn to look at you then resume their chatter. You take several steps forward, feigning ease and confidence until you spot a familiar face off to one side. Relief floods through you. Security is only metres away.
This scenario could easily describe a parent’s experience just as much as that of a student. Passing through the school gate immerses us in a giant melting pot of people from diverse family situations and backgrounds.
The Comparison Trap
Rubbing shoulders with so many new people brings our insecurities bubbling to the surface. We measure our worth by what we see in those around us and ask ourselves, over and over, whether we are up to standard. We compare and compete, all the while trying to maintain the demeanour of the perfect parent.
I wonder if that’s what God has in mind for us, really.
Many years ago, I was struggling with the smallness of my life compared to some of my friends when six little words ran through my mind.
‘Comparison is the thief of joy’.
I knew it was God’s voice, warning me. Comparison does no good. It only steals. God never intended for me to measure my life against that of others or find my happiness in meeting their approval.
We’re in a spiritual battle. The enemy’s primary mission is to shut us down, to stop us fulfilling God’s plans. Fear, rejection and inadequacy seem to be some of his favourite tactics.
In contrast, God’s plan is for His people to shine like stars, bringing Him honour in the way they live (Philippians 2:14-16). In order to do this, we need to fix our eyes on Him and enter into the fullness of His plan for us. And free others to do the same.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “All men are born originals. But sadly most men die copies.” What a sobering reflection on the human heart. We’re often too afraid to be who we really are. Instead we waste our lives trying to emulate someone else, while the world misses out on the unique contribution God wanted us to make.
Our Father made us all different on purpose. (1 Cor. 12:12-27) We are each a unique reflection of His nature, made in His image. As we choose to flourish in the call and gifting He’s given us, we reveal different facets of His nature to the world.
Confronting and dealing with fear
- Sometimes, even when we want to press on with God, fear can entwine itself around our legs. Here are some ways I’m learning to throw it off.
- Acknowledge the fear and ask God’s help to overcome it.
- Check our heart. Fear of being judged can sometimes stem from our own tendency to judge others. (Matt. 7:1-2) If judgement is a problem for us we need to confess it and ask God to help us see people with His eyes.
- Forgive those who’ve hurt us. If a parent at school is giving us a hard time, forgiving them can free us from the power of their words or actions. Forgiveness is not saying the person did no wrong. Far from it. Rather it’s a choice to leave that experience behind and move on with our lives.
- Trust God. Acknowledge He is in control and choose to find security in His constant, loving presence. He promises, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
- Act in the opposite spirit. Choose to show kindness to those who’ve been unkind (Luke 6:27-36). This is a powerful act of spiritual warfare – a way of declaring that the enemy has not won. I’ve seen towering walls come melting down when I’ve chosen to persist in showing kindness to abrasive people. God loves to heal and restore.
Lead the way for our children
Our children face a potential battlefield as they enter the school grounds each day. Friendships can fluctuate and confidence levels rise and plummet accordingly. One of the best things we can do for them is set an example in the way we handle relationships. As we learn to deal with our fears and shine for God, regardless of what others think, we pave the way for them to do the same.
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