Christian Comparison Isn't Pretty
Every Saturday night, I do something that I really hate. I wish I could stop, but the temptation is far too great. Every Saturday night, without fail, I spend a shameful amount of time mulling over this oh-so-not-important question: What am I going to wear?
I live in an area where image matters, even at church. Women spend a great deal of time on their appearance, and it creates a high-pressure environment that affects those of us who otherwise might not care about Sunday morning style. As I drift to sleep each Saturday night, I mentally catalog my wardrobe and pick out just the right outfit for the following morning.
I hate that I do this.
Comparison is powerful. We know this. But it's powerful in a slow and quiet way. As one woman raises the bar a little higher—the always manicured nails, the Pinterest-worthy home, the angelic children on Instagram—another woman follows suit, and then another. The moment you step into that line, another woman is sure to follow you. This is how a culture is created. We struggle to resist the pressure, to consciously and willfully say, "No, I will not participate in creating an even higher, less attainable standard for women." So the pressure grows.
That's why I appreciate women like Jen Hatmaker and Kristen Howerton. Last year Hatmaker wrote a viral blog post exposing her less-than-perfect parenting. Behind her tongue in cheek confession of being "the worst end of school year mom ever" was a refreshing, even subversive, honesty. In writing that post, Hatmaker resisted the pressure to compete, to compare, to look perfect all the time. In doing so, she threw a wrench in the image machine, making room for women to be themselves.
A few days ago, Howerton wrote a post in the same vein by offering a real-life glimpse into her home. Amidst the photos of tilted lamps, junky floors, unmade beds, and stacks of paper, Howerton admitted, "A lifestyle blog of only perfect moments is not a lifestyle I'm familiar with."
More and more I am realizing that this—being honest about one's actual life and God-given self—is what it means to be countercultural. We exist in a culture that is obsessed with image to an idolatrous degree. Every perfect home, every precious Instagram, every designer outfit contributes to this culture. On their own, none of these activities is bad, but when combined with the thousands of other images that inundate us on the Internet and at church, it adds up to a crushing amount of weight.
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