Love, Comparison, and my Neighbor

(This is a guest post from my lovely wife. Enjoy!) I received a Precious Moments Bible for my First Holy Communion that had full-page drawings of well-known Bible stories, all using little, and fatheaded, round-nosed Precious Moment people. My favorite was the Good Samaritan. I think my heart felt so sorry for the little boy in the drawing, with his dirty face and bandaged brow. I would come back to that picture over and over again. And the story itself is one that I know well, one that has been taught to me over and over again. I know that Jesus commands us to love our neighbor, no matter what or who our neighbor is.

Some days it seems downright impossible. It’s not that I can’t love my neighbor. It’s not that I don’t want to love my neighbor.

For me it’s this simple truth - I can not love my neighbor as myself if I haven’t first learned to love myself.

My neighbor is that litmus test in my life. They are that person who reveals how shabby I think I am and my life is.  If I can’t learn to love myself, my life, my family, my work, my situation, my allotment, how can I love that other person who seems to have it all better than I do?

We live in a world created of comparisons and finding faults in others. It’s what keeps us watching shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians, House Hunters International or any of the Real Housewives franchises.

We fixate on the others around us, comparing our shortcomings to their lack of such. If it isn’t at the gym, it’s in the cars in the gym parking lot. It’s in our neighbor’s house, their landscaping, their pool.

It’s on Facebook, trolling through pictures that make everyone else’s life look so much more beautiful and carefree than our own.

It’s in your friend’s marriage, the way she and her husband still hold hands.

It’s the confidence of the other moms in the lobby at the dance class.

It’s the joy of the people at the table next to yours at the restaurant last night.

It’s the people who walk by your house every night with their 2.5 children and regal looking dog.

It’s the woman at the grocery store that is not buying all bulk and generic items.

It’s the angelic singing voice of the person behind you in church.

If we think that we are somehow short-changed, missing out, and that others are having it better than we do, then we have a tendency to shut down. Shut out. Loving my neighbor means I have to love my self, my body and my life. It means we have to find contentment, love and grace in being who we are. Who we were and are created to be. Acceptance and power in knowing that our life is ours and that beauty, hope and joy can flow freely from it. It means stopping the comparisons. It means finding the places where society and others tell us that we are failures or are empty and realize the infinite possibilities they provide, the freedom and simplicity that they grant. The love that they give, rather than steal from our hearts.

There will always be a bigger house, a more luxurious car, a more sun-soaked vacation, a flatter stomach, a happier marriage, but the reality is, there will be, and only is, one of me. Me. In all my broken imperfections. In all my flaws, my cracks. And that person next to me, there will only ever be one of them.

Brennan Manning, in his book Ragamuffin Gospel, says that God’s grace and unconditional love

“…is for inconsistent, unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker.”

I love that. We all have some kind of cheese sliding off our cracker, no one is as they seem. Wouldn’t it be such a grander vision if we acknowledged that and accepted it and loved each other through it?

And isn’t that it ? I need to love you because you are just as broken and flawed as I try not to appear.