Last week Maggie wanted to come along to one of the boys' soccer practices. This is commonplace in our house, everybody wants to go to everyone else's practice. They either join in if the coach is willing (Eamon always practices with his big brothers) or they just practice goal kicks on a nearby field/shoot hoops on the basketball court/throw a football or play at the playground. Maggie always picks the playground option, but she is usually the only one so I asked her if she was ever lonely at the playground but she said nope. I invited her to come for a run/walk with me instead to which she replied "No thanks. But good for you, Mom, for exercising" and ran off to the monkey bars to perfect her swing.
"Good for you."
That phrase can have such a negative connotation. When my coworker has a day off and I'm stressed about work, I think "Good for you, must be nice". When I run through the neighborhood with the big houses and the beautiful lawns, I think "Good for you, but why can't it be me?" When I'm out with the kids and somebody is counting all the little heads and says "Wow, seven? Good for you" it's usually not a compliment.
|House photos from my beloved running neighborhood|
But that's not how Maggie meant it at all. She was innocent and sincere, and was actually encouraging me with her "Good for you". She wasn't jealous of me going for a run, she could have gone for one too. She wasn't put out by my choice to run, she was just choosing not to. She was literally glad for me that I got to do something she knows I like (and makes me a much nicer mom!). How wonderful it would be if we could all just be happy for one another's happiness. We all know comparison is the thief of joy, yet the tendency to compare and feel miserable after is so readily there. There are so many times I scroll through Instagram and see mothers dressed to the nines or with beautifully decorated houses and don't feel happy for them, but disappointed in myself. How can we stop these negative thoughts?
|This one's even on a cul-de-sac|
As the VeggieTales taught me, "A thankful heart is a happy heart. Be glad for what you have, that's an easy place to start." I literally sing that song to myself when I'm feeling stuck in the comparison cycle. And it helps! This is my process (which I use way more often than a grown woman should):
1. Think about all the gifts I've been given in this life - family, home, faith, job, school system, parish, etc. Say a prayer of thanksgiving to God for everything blessing I don't deserve.
|I mean, come on!|
2. Find the truth in any situation that makes us feel jealous/sad/disappointed with ourselves. For example, that gorgeous neighborhood that I can be prone to covet? I noticed one day that they have wicked ugly town trashcans. Which reminded me that they have garbage inside those homes and have to take it out, just like everybody else. That amazing mom who looks perfect in photos? She definitely took 100 photos to get that one perfect shot she shared. I realize this is not the most virtuous way to live, but it's a practical tip for someone who struggles with this vice. Or so I've been told ;)
3. Finally, remember that this life is fleeting. Seriously, what does any of this matter if we don't get to Heaven? And when Jesus says "You've won the race, GOOD FOR YOU!" He won't mean it sarcastically :)