In a world of technology and social media it is so easy to fool the world. We put up all those photos and posts that paint the rosiest pictures of where our lives are at. It’s about trying to outdo all your Facebook friends, your Twitter followers and other Instagrammers. We become more concerned about portraying a false identity on social media than living a life of integrity in REAL LIFE! Our sense of identity and our purpose is lost somewhere in cyberspace. And it’s so easy to get lost in this fake, make-belief “reality” that we struggle to differentiate between who we are, and who we are trying to portray.
It has become a place of comparison. How many “likes” our posts get compared to some of our Facebook friends’. And the crazy thing is that some of them aren’t even friends in real life. We just keep them on our friendship list to keep the numbers up and to keep up with all the gossip! It’s sad but undeniable for most of us. We take selfies in obscure places to make sure that everyone sees how “great” our life is. We post photos of our meals to show that we go to the best restaurants. We pose with famous people to show that we almost have celebrity status. And we do all this because we are caught up in a war of comparison.
Here’s a reminder to all of us: “We weren’t created to compare ourselves with others.” It is a crazy idea even to think about comparing ourselves to others, because we are all amazingly different. You have unique DNA! You have unique genes! You have a unique personality! You have unique fingerprints! Every single one of the almost 8 billion people alive today is unique and different. That’s the way God chose to create us and it breaks His heart to see us getting caught up in this battle of comparison. Believe that God loves you, that He created you with your specific gifts for a reason and that He has a special plan for you.
Nick Vujicic was born with no arms and no legs. As a young child he was fine with who he was. But as he grew up, went to school and was seen as “different”, he started comparing himself to others. And he lost that battle because he was very different. One day he decided that he couldn’t compare with others so he tried to drown himself in the bath. He and so many people are thankful that this attempt wasn’t successful. As he grew up, he realised that playing the comparison game was a dangerous way to live. He realised that he was unique in his own way and that through his “disability” he had an ability to share hope with others. He found his purpose in life and his days of comparing himself to others came to an end. He is giving hope to millions because he focuses on what he has, instead of what he doesn’t have.
So instead of spending time trying to impress everyone with a “fake” life on-line, why not start to live a real life and make a real difference? Why not make a point of having real conversations with people who are in your presence? And there is no better place to start than with your own family. How about spending more time talking to your teenage child and doing things with them that they enjoy doing? I know as parents we don’t always feel like kicking the soccer ball when we get home from work, but that’s how we build real relationships with our kids. I know that playing FIFA 18 on the XBox might not be your first choice of relaxation, but doing something with your child that they enjoy, shows them that you are interested. Going into your child’s room at bedtime and joking around for a few minutes might not seem like anything major to you, but it means so much to them. Giving your child a hug, even if he or she is taller than you, is something that they need and appreciate even if they don’t always show it.
I have been a teacher for 18 years and it breaks my heart to see how children speak to their parents and their disregard for others. The overwhelming reason for this is a lack of interest shown by the parents to spend quality time with their children. In the western world, children who grow up in families where parents don’t have much time for them end up as part of these statistics:
- 90% of runaway youths
- 85% of behavioural disorders
- 71% of high school dropouts
- 70% of youths in prison
- 75% of youths in substaance abuse clinics
Sometimes we think that providing our children with the best material things, will make them happy and make them love us. It never works. There was a time when we were living on a golf estate, I was traveling business class for work and Bev was a stay-at-home mom. Life couldn’t get better as far as material things were concerned, but my eyes were opened to reality one day. I was working ridiculous hours and wasn’t home much. I thought that providing my family with “stuff” would make them happy. But one day, my eldest son, who was 5 at the time, asked my wife, “Does daddy still live here?” That day, God spoke very clearly to me, through a 5-year-old child. It was that day I realised that my wife and my children needed my presence and attention more than they needed nice things. I believe that the choices I made from that day has, and will continue to determine the direction my sons’ lives will take. Because since that day I chose to show them how important they are to me by spending time with them. They know that and that gives them the confidence to know that they are important.
I hope you can forgive me for bragging a bit about my 2 boys now. But there’s a reason I want to share this with you. Firstly, because I am tremendously proud of both of them. And secondly, because it is living proof that by making them feel safe and loved, that the direction they choose to take, has really good odds to be the right one. We recently moved to a new city in Australia and James, our younger son, started attending a new school in grade 6. After being there for only 5 weeks, they selected the Student Representatives (prefects for us older folk). He was 1 of 3 in his grade that was selected. The reasons we were given is that he is compassionate to fellow students, respectful towards teachers and he reflects Christian values.
John, who is in grade 9 is the sporty type and is a bit more reserved than James. After being at his school for about 7 weeks, he got a Valentines letter from a “secret admirer”. He has given me permission to share this note. “I want you to know how much you mean to me. Your smile and face brightens up my day. You are very intelligent and committed to things that are important. You are a candle in the darkness!”
I know my boys are on the right track and I believe that part of the reason for that is that they know that they are loved. It not only because we say it to them, but more importantly because we show them. Actions speak far louder than words. Children are too busy following our example to listen to what we are saying.
In any relationship, LOVE is spelt T -I-M-E. You see, love is an action. It is not just a word that is easy to say. It’s not just an emotion that is easy to feel. It is an action that is not always easy. It’s something you do for somebody because they are important to you – not because you always feel like doing it. And that is why Jesus is the ultimate example of LOVE. He died for us – not because He felt like suffering, but because He loves every single person in this world. He doesn’t just say it – He proves it by stepping out of His “comfort zone” to take our place on a very uncomfortable, undeserving, humiliating and extremely painful cross.
How about we take that to heart and do 3 things:
- We stop comparing ourselves to others!
- We start to live in the real world!
- We make our lives count!