Laying Aside Comparison (especially with the ones you love)

My sister and I were born 15 months apart.

As children, we were often looped together, but our identities were clearly set. She was older, so she scooped up responsibility. I was younger, and I leaned on her, I learned from her (though I’d never ever admit it).

My fourth grade was a different world from her sixth grade, and our paths made sense, since everything in your childhood happens in a straight order. Picture books to chapter books, adding to multiplication to long division, planting little bean seeds to full fledged science reports.

Our lives were set on these specific road maps, but eventually in life, things stop happening in an ascending order.

There’s a reason grade school stops at twelve. Graduation means you get to pick your own path now, no one is telling you where to go, or who to follow from here.

And so my sister and I are in similar chapters of life - young twenties, getting out on our feet, dreaming big and living small - and though are settings are similar, our stories seem to be in stark contrast.

Our pages look different. She went off, traveled the world, bounced around four different colleges with four or five different majors and made four hundred close friends. I went to one college, picked one major, and can count on one hand the women I keep up with.

She’s a multi-professional, dabbling in everything. In one week she will scold Vice Presidents of Fortune 500 companies, teach little girls in tutus, coach church volunteers, sell products from a family business, and write a paper for nursing school.

To show you this contrast, in one week I’ll do my one job, guard my bedtime, and try to remember to go for a run.

Natalie is passionate about everything she does. She’s intense. She’s fast paced. She’s a whirlwind. She takes on the world with all of it’s people and all of it’s problems and asks for more. She seems to be everywhere, all at once, and all in. It’s a blessing, and a curse, of course. This passion can burn you up. The never ending list of crises can mean resorting to band aids - always jumping to the next fire sometimes leaves the embers rekindling.

Sometimes I look at her, and I focus on the chaos. Because I’m a little bit slower. I’m a little more than okay with average and alone time. With a slow pace. With quiet and control. I mostly feel like I’m grasping and flailing for order and routine and safety, and her spinning and shaking and dancing make me plant my feet a little firmer.

We got together this last weekend, and our differences ached and screamed inside me. My womenly-wiring sends all these pieces through some natural comparison scanner, and tries to put things - all the things - in line.

Map out all these coordinates and try to get a reading: Bodies. Clothes. Friends. Future. Relationships. Rooms.

But there is no line, not anymore. Our directions are self-chosen, our bodies have filled out according to their own individual DNA, and our relationships look different for the different people which we are.

We are not following any universally set path, so ordering these differences is destructive. It’s damaging.

When I look at Natalie and I lay the comparison aside,  I see impact. Life change. I see the hearts she’s changed. The lives she touches. The work that’s done. And though the task is never-ending, she keeps jumping out of bed every morning ready to take on the world.

When I look at Natalie and I lay the comparison aside, I see Natalie for who she is: resilient and brave and beautiful. Gifted in a million ways. Generous beyond belief. Strong in her faith, bold in her love.

She’s worth celebrating. And my comparisons become a cage. Because our differences are designed, they are not mistakes. They are not on accident. Our gifts, our strengths, even our weaknesses are purposed to fulfill unique roles on our separate paths. 

I was trying to explain this to Jake, and he said beautifully, “You’re going to have to acknowledge your differences. Not with comparison but looking at her as her own individual person. Supremely loved and deeply imperfect. Because that is what you are. You two are even now. But you aren’t the same. You won’t ever be the same.”

When I compare, I suck the life out of her choices, out of her giftings, out of her impact. I even get the life sucked out of my own giftings.

We are different. Let me embrace this, not feel so threatened. Let me learn, not lecture. Let me love openly, without control. Without order. Freely. 

Thanks for reading and sticking with me. It's been a bit too quiet on this blog. Let's jump back in together! I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below :)