I have a new blogging rule of thumb: write (if you're going to write) before checking any social media of the day, Twitter in particular. It's a mental deal, no doubt, but on the days I haven't scrolled through all that Twitter has to offer I find I write, when I write, with much more freedom and honesty.
In contrast, on the days I break that rule I sometimes find myself fighting the feeling that my blog is inconsequential and my words insignificant at best, self serving at worst.
Which perhaps is true. I mean, really, I'm a smart girl. I read my own blog and I see the stats. But, bottom line, it's not the stats but my own self consciousness, self doubt, and maybe a dash of selfish ambition that tend to read between the lines of my Twitter feed and sometimes find my small corner of the Internet to be oh so very small and oh so very pitiful.
"I'm taking a break from social media, Instagram especially" my friend confessed to me over scrambled eggs and French toast several months ago. "I just can't handle seeing everyone else's perfect lives and perfect children and perfect homes." My friend is currently persevering through a complicated and messy stage of life and the relative dichotomy between her reality and the appearance of others' perfection on Instagram was too much.
I think my friend is wise.
I suppose I'm trying, in some small way, to adopt a measure of her discipline with my new (and too often broken) blog-before-Twitter rule.
I recently read an article online about Instagram envy. Yeah, it's real and I doubt it's relegated only to Instagram. As I've already confessed, Twitter can have the same sort of effect. For some of us, it's the pictures of the beautifully decorated homes or the exquisitely staged meals that make us bitter. For me, it might be humbly acknowledging someone else's writing to be better and, maybe here's the real rub, better appreciated.
Just keepin' it real.
Years and years and years ago, like when I only had two children and those two only babies at that, I was in my kitchen listening to a syndicated talk show on the local Christian radio station. I have no idea who was being interviewed nor even the subject at hand but the guest on the show that day made a statement I have never forgotten: "Godliness with contentment is great gain but it's comparison that is the beginning of discontent."
What a revelation! Comparison gives birth to my discontent?! As I thought that morning, there in my kitchen, about the areas in my life then prone to dissatisfaction, I began to see the truth of the statement.
And not just then. It's true in today's dissatisfactions too, writing being only a small fraction thereof, the small fraction, that is, which I am willing to confess to you in this space.
Comparison kills contentment. It will either lead us to despair or puff us up with false superiority, both of which are enemies to true gospel contentment.
In Matthew 5, Jesus makes the rather startling command to those who struggle with looking at a woman with lustful intent, "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away." He goes on to recommend cutting off the right hand for the same reason. There is, obviously, a wider application than to a man struggling with lust. We all have areas of our lives, Instagram or something else, where we battle temptation and envy and discontent. Jesus recommends what? Dismemberment? Going blind in one eye? I think, and thankfully most commentators agree with me, that Jesus is employing dramatic overstatement here in order to emphasize the point: Sin is serious and requires radical treatment.
We are to be wise and to take whatever steps necessary to put to death...what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Col. 3:5-6) Put it to death. Wage war, as John Piper has said. Can't get much more serious than that.
We tend to think this all a little silly, at least if we're talking about Twitter and blogging and Instagram. Silly and radical and maybe a little, well, you know, "out there." Maybe so. But did you catch what we are to put to death according to Colossians? Impurity, passion, evil desire and, yes, covetousness.
Waging war against sin and temptation and covetousness begins with the wisdom of knowing ourselves and our weakness. We must pray and ask the Lord to search us and expose us. We must be willing to be radical and to do what it takes to fight and flee temptation. Maybe my friend needs to take an Instagram hiatus. Maybe I need to curtail my social media interaction. Maybe you need to throw away the scale or stop buying fashion magazines or lay off the Internet for an extended time. I don't know your weakness but I know mine and I daresay you know yours.
Let's be wise. Let's stop comparing ourselves knowing full well that comparison gives way to discontent. Let us learn the discipline of godliness with contentment. Let us repent of our dissatisfaction that resents the gracious provision of our God. Let us learn the humble submission of gratitude and the joy of freedom that is ours in Christ. Let us glorify Him not by clamoring after the world and its fading treasure but by seeking that which is eternal, His kingdom, His righteousness.