Incredible. Perfect. The best ever. These terms are occasionally suitable to describe a life event, a day, a relationship, or a memory. But when did we begin to use such exaggerated language for every little moment? Especially when we know it wasn't the most perfect day, even as we type out the word perfect?
We project the perfect, exaggerated highlights of our lives. If your story line isn't just so, throw in some flowery language and then you'll feel better about the gaps of your (my) life that aren't exemplary.
I try to write honestly on this blog, but I cannot exclude myself from this. It is not a new discussion in this era of social media, but we should have a discussion about the damage all this exaggeration leads to. The excessive use of hyperboles speaks to the sharer's insecurities, and it takes a toll on the sharer's heart in a few ways:
- It promotes comparison: If only my life were like so-and-so's, then _____.
- It promotes a coveting attitude: I want those clothes, that home, that job, that lifestyle, that weekend getaway, that budget, or the PTO to do those adventurous things.
- It masks the real issue, primarily: insecurity in my life, my home, my clothes, my lifestyle, and ultimately, my heart.
Today was not the most perfect weather ever. That iced chai I drank last weekend wasn't the most perfectly spiced chai I've ever tasted. This is not the best blog post you'll ever read. But here are some truths about Andrea at this very moment:
- I've accidentally cut the same finger twice this week while chopping vegetables, I've had a bandaid on the same finger for like, eight days. Nicholas is scared to leave me alone in the kitchen with a knife.
- I had to throw out a bunch of food last week because we didn't use it in time.
- My hair is really dirty, and I wanted to work out today (because my desire to work out is based entirely on the cleanliness of my hair, of course). But I never did.
- I posted a pretty picture of meyer lemons on instagram yesterday. The juice from the lemons went into a soup that didn't turn out. I even cried about it last night.
- Even though I know it will be good and rewarding, I prioritized everything over my Bible study today.
There. Just in case we all needed a reality check. Regardless of my Instagram feed, these are the messy details of my life today. There are so many underutilized words in the English language that would more truthfully convey details of our lives, but we're always going for the gold, or the little hearts, if you will.
Seeking approval from others may be one motive, but each "perfect" post also cements the idea in my own mind that I'm doing really well, and that those messy parts of my heart aren't really that bad. This indulges my insecurity and treats it with the ineffective balm of approval, minimizing the world's and my own awareness of the ugly parts of my life. Perfect framing enables me to neglect the areas of my life that do need work—the icky parts that demonstrate my absolute, unarguable, eternal need for Jesus.
This is an excerpt from an article on Desiring God, written by David Mathis:
When Christ is our security, we learn to be okay with our lives being more dramatic in reality than everyone needs to hear about through our speech. Rather than making subtle and shameless efforts to have others think we're more fruitful than we really are, we're happy to have them underestimate what may otherwise impress. Ultimately, it is the bigness and unsurpassed beauty of Christ that frees us from exaggeration. Since Christ is even more powerful, and more glorious than we can describe, we can't over-speak about him, and we no longer need to feel compelled to over-speak about ourselves, our experiences, our feats, and our lives. Christians should have a corner on understatement. Let's learn to enjoy the bigness of Christ by aiming to be free from self-exalting exaggeration. Jesus is impressive enough, and satisfying enough, to make us content with having our fruitfulness underestimated in the ocean of overstatement around us.
I love looking for little bits of joy in the messiest days. I agree that we don't need to air all our deepest struggles on social media, or in any public setting, for that matter. However, I'm exhausted from even the thought of portraying a life that I myself would covet.
So maybe we should try something different. Let's grow in our command of the English language (seriously, google synonyms for "good" and try out a few in your day-to-day speech, and so will I). Let's grow in our acknowledgement of the unattractive parts of us that exemplify our absolute need for Christ. Let's get the attention off of us and back to Christ. And even if no one notices, let's make our subtle mark with understatement.