I think we’d all like to break our mirrors and throw them away at times. They help us and they hurt us. Ultimately, sometimes they control us.
Recently I had the opportunity to talk to teenage girls about friend drama, or perhaps more accurately, girl drama. I hate it when people stereotype what girls are like, myself an outdoors woman who doesn’t own a tube of lipstick or a pair of high-heeled shoes. I have to admit however, that one thing I can’t deny is the way girls and women compare themselves to each other and the negative consequences that follow. I remember attending a Beth Moore live event a few years back where I heard her say, “There are two negative things that women do to each other almost across the board…” I looked at the woman beside me and finished Beth’s sentence as she echoed what I said: “comparison and competition.” We all know it, and I’m glad we are finally talking about it.
It’s so easy for us to look at each other and compare ourselves to one another. When we’re young it’s often about body shape, hairstyle, clear skin, and who gets male attention. As we age, the issues may change, but the root problem is the same, “She has fewer wrinkles than me, she’s thinner than me, she’s heavier, she’s smarter, has more friends, more confidence, less confidence, has a better marriage, has perfect kids” etc. etc. etc.
Why do we have such a tendency to compare ourselves to other girls or women to see how we measure up? I believe goes back to the earliest woman in the garden, who, after taking what God had clearly told her to avoid, felt shame.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves, (Genesis 3:6,7).
Shame is a powerful emotion, and it runs bone-deep. We understand our weaknesses are exposed, and it drives us to desperately cover our own inadequacies. We know we feel “less than” and we want to feel whole. We don’t want to face that empty place inside of us, so we critique other women who seem to be full…better…perfect. We may even imagine another woman is proud of her superiority. I bet she’s not. I bet she feels just like me.
Consider Sarah, who had given her servant-girl Hagar to her husband Abraham during her time of infertility so that Abraham could have a son. Later, when Sarah had a son of her own, she wanted to eliminate the competition, stating, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac” (Genesis 21:10). While you and I probably don’t breathe out murderous threats toward other women, we often wish we could match their success, influence or confidence right? Be honest.
There’s a reason we struggle you know. We were never meant to be whole or satisfied on our own. We were created for enduring fellowship with God, the lover of our souls. We carry His image within us. We are His image-bearers (Genesis 1:27), and when we forget that we’re only whole with Him, we forget our source peace and beauty. In comparing ourselves to others, we feel the inadequacy. Their strengths become the focus of our anger and jealousy.
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures, (James 4:1-3 NIV).
When we look at ourselves in comparison to others we are looking for things of this world to fill us. God considers it adultery (James 4:4-6). He created our souls for a relationship with Himself (Colossians 1:15-17), and we will never find rest in comparison with others. Which reminds me of a favorite quote by St Augustine, “Thou has made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” Our rest comes only through Jesus (Matthew 11:28).
One late night this week I was driving home when I heard an interview with author Jessie Minnassain about her book: Backwards Beauty: How to feel ugly in ten simple steps. Score! She understands the way we compare and compete and offers a timeless solution to our problem. Jessie quoted the book of Exodus, “They made the bronze basin and its bronze stand from the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting” (38:8). You see, when God’s people were constructing a tabernacle for His glory, they collected the finest resources people had to offer, including bronze for crafting a cleansing laver (basin). Exodus tells us that the women who served at the entrance of the tent were the ones who gave up their mirrors to make the basin. Do you see the connection? Not all women gave up their mirrors, but the ones who were near to God serving Him were willing. They knew that looking at themselves would never bring happiness. Comparison leads us only to emptiness because again, only God can make us whole.
I want to be among those who shatter the image. I want to follow the example of the women who served at the place of worship, and gave up comparison so they could gaze at the beauty of the Lord. Romans 8:6 tells us, “The mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” Sign me up. Lord, take my mirror. Use it at the place of your glory. Transform it into something that prepares others for service to You.