One of the quickest ways I know to become thoroughly miserable is to start thinking about the unfairness of life. It is like a game of Chutes and Ladders, where I am tooling along just fine when zoop, zoop! There I am at the bottom of a slide in a mud puddle of self-pity. Whoa! This was not supposed to happen to me!
(This illustration is totally gratuitous: it’s just that I find it endlessly amusing to see the difference between the early version where the chutes were snakes and the politically correct versions of today. Check out numbers 17 and 47.)
The problem with marinating in misery about life’s unfairness is that I always compare myself with those who have more than I do. If my house were bigger, I could stay organized like other women. If my grocery budget included shrimp, I could wow guests too. If I could buy all my children’s clothes at Gymboree, we would also look amazing in family portraits.
One day my little girl was feeling discouraged about a routine lab draw. “I don’t know why Jesus doesn’t heal me if He loves me,” she said. Yet, as we discussed the diabetic children who have to check their blood sugar levels multiple times a day and have shots too, her outlook changed completely. She suddenly felt that she has it easy, with blood-work only four times a year and her adrenals compensated by a small pill, not shots. I tried to explain that Jesus’ love is never in question, no matter what, but my heart ached in sympathy, because haven’t we all felt variations of this? Why doesn’t Jesus give me what I want? I need this! Why do other people seem to skim along so effortlessly and here I am, struggling at the bottom of the chute?
I think the reason comparing ourselves with others isn’t wise is because it starts us on a trail of questioning God’s goodness. “But if He loves me, why me???” We become focussed on all the things that others have that we deserve and then we whine, “Why not me?” The thing about self-pity is that it is so endlessly… selfish.
Sometimes it seems we really do need to compare ourselves to others, others who have much less, that is. When we children complained about the food, my mom’s homily on the starving children in Africa was right on point. Stop pouting about silly things and be thankful!
Maybe I don’t like my body and I think it is so unfair that the other woman got the perfect hair/figure/personality. I wouldn’t choose the grief she endures because of childlessness, of course, but I would like all the best things for myself.
Maybe my husband was too obtuse to notice that I spent hours cleaning out the family vehicle, but what about the neighbor who is suspicious that her husband is seeing another woman on his business trips?
Maybe I am tired of all my clothes. I have had this sweater for 14 years, after all. And yet. I have options. I have three coats for this winter. “If God loves me” sounds pretty pathetic when I consider the Iraqi Christians who fled their homes in terror of their lives and now live only with what they were able to carry along.
When I whimper an entitled “Life just isn’t fair,” I show myself up as an ingrate who is willing to stay a victim of circumstances.
When I recognize the generosity of my blessings, because I know that life really isn’t fair and I don’t deserve anything, I show the world the goodness of God.