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Ugh...Facebook comparisons

From the July 9, 2012 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

TMC Youth's website, time4thinkers.com, recently featured this article as a blog.

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Deep down, where I didn’t want to admit it, a little part of me felt hurt. I’d posted some big news on Facebook, but the “likes” and comments weren’t piling up the way I’d expected them to. Weren’t people excited for me? Didn’t they care? The rational side of me told me I was being petty and silly, but still, I couldn’t help logging on again and again—each time hoping I’d have new notifications of my friends’ validation.

I’m not alone. Other friends have told me that they’ve felt a weird sort of competitiveness when it comes to Facebook. Who gets the most likes on their profile picture? Why is it that their announcement of a new job, or a great internship, or a sports team win only gets X number of likes, while another person’s gets XX? The fickleness and randomness of Facebook validation is as enticing as it is dangerous:

Every post offers us new opportunities to believe that we don’t measure up. Or that the people we’re looking to for confirmation of our worth aren’t there to give it to us—at least, not this time.

So we keep posting. And we keep comparing.

Or, we tackle this never-ending search for self-worth and validation from a spiritual perspective.

Wait a second: pray? About Facebook?

Well, not Facebook exactly. Facebook may be the latest petri dish in which this epidemic of competitiveness is growing, but the question of whether we can ever measure up crops up almost everywhere.

I speak from experience. It used to be that I was incredibly hard on myself. Maybe I measured up—had worth—in others’ eyes. But in my own, it seemed like all I could see sometimes were my epic failings.

I wanted to be as accomplished as other people. As hard-working and generous and smart and disciplined. But the more I measured myself by the yardstick of other people’s achievements, the lower I felt.

God had an answer for me, though. In fact, I think it’s an answer that applies to all of us—no matter whom we’re measuring ourselves against. It came in the form of this verse from the Bible: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).

To be honest, I’d never much liked that Bible passage when I’d read it before. The message comes at the end of the story of Jesus’ baptism—before the start of his radical, world-altering ministry. It bugged me, actually. Why was God pleased with Jesus when, quite frankly, the guy hadn’t even done anything great yet?

Wow—did I ever have it wrong. As I prayed about these feelings of self-worth and competitiveness, this passage occurred to me in a completely new light. For the first time, I saw that God wasn’t pleased with Jesus because of what he’d done, but rather, it was because God was pleased with Jesus first, that Jesus was able to go on to do all of his incredible works.

God’s pleasure with him—with each of us—is the starting point. It’s not earned; it’s given. It’s the gift of God’s love—freely bestowed because God rejoices in what He made. We are each His accomplishment: His finest work, His masterpiece. We can’t be any greater, any more loved, any more “liked” than we already are because whether we see it or not, we’re as beautiful and brilliant right now as we’re ever going to be. It’s simply who we are.

God’s love is enough. Sometimes it may not feel as tangible as our own self-assessment, or the number of likes on our latest Facebook post. But it’s there. In my life, I’ve found that it’s the most palpable when my thoughts are still, quiet. That’s when I feel the reassurance that everything I need, and everything good that I am, comes from God. That He is pleased with me—and that in this glorious light, I can see my incomparable worth, too.

A thousand “likes” on Facebook could never begin to compare.

Jenny Sawyer lives in Brighton, Massachusetts.

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