Sometimes we look at our lives and see only lost jobs, broken relationships, debt and plenty of mistakes. We see all those attempts at moving forward in our careers or finances. We see all of our setbacks and delays, all the (so-far) fruitless attempts at landing new clients, having children or even finding our perfect, significant other.
What Others See
In the midst of one trial after another, it’s not always easy for us to be objective about the life we have. The difficulties we face can either make us or break us. Others are watching and they will either be discouraged or encouraged by how we deal with those difficulties.
Some years ago, I participated in a single mom’s group. Every week, certain ones would ask me how I was doing. It didn’t matter if I’d just had the most hellish week of my life, I responded the same way every time they asked.
The leader of the group seemed to be visibly chagrined every time I announced this. And, as people often do, she made up a narrative about how my life must be. In this woman’s mind, I was 15 years younger than in reality, naïve and had never endured a rough day in my single mom life. She had the perspective that I was living on the gravy train.
But early on, I had determined that I would find one positive thing in each day, and that was when my focus shifted from the few things that were wrong, to all the things that were going right. With the mindset of counting my blessings, I could often cheer myself up and recognize the fingerprints of a sovereign God in my life. Not only that, I was able to cheer up some others who struggled through their weeks.
Eventually, the group leader and I finally sat down to talk. By then I ‘d left the group, convinced that she had it all together because she and her children always looked so sharp and she was so articulate. She appeared to be amazingly calm, grounded and blessed with an amazing physique: the enviable statuesque look.
When we exchanged stories, I learned that she struggled for decades with depression and eating disorders. She carried an enormous burden of shame for being divorced.
She was stunned to learn that I wasn’t in my 20’s but in fact in my 40’s. My daughter and I lived 30 minutes away from all of our friends and rarely had money beyond pocket change. As a new potter trying to launch my business, I often struggled between buying a box of clay or buying groceries. I’d placed my first child with adoptive parents, survived attempted suicides of a very close relative, a parental divorce and a family dynamic described as “the bar in Star Wars” (first movie.) When we realized what the other had really come from, we became fast and dear friends, appreciating one another on a different level.
She understood that as a single mom I wasn’t so much as faking it until I made it as much as trying to be grateful for every good thing because it was tied to my hope that things would get better. We had to laugh at how little we knew each other.
What this means for you
When you start getting down on yourself about your circumstances, I encourage you to spend a little time with someone you trust, someone who knows you pretty well. If you ask them a few questions, you may be surprised to discover that they actually envy you. Try these for starters:
- What are some good things you see in my life?
- Is there anything about my life that you wish you had?
- What do you see as my strengths?
They may not see your struggle, but your perseverance. They may view your perseverance not as foolish, but as faithful. They may not see your failures as disasters but as a mosaic of creative solutions. They may see repeated attempts to succeed as patience or diligence. They may see you not as slow but as thorough, and your life as a beautiful thing.
Let us know what you found out by sharing in the comment box below.