Being Real in a Shiny, Plastic World

If you’re on social media, I’m sure you’ve seen the “Love Your Spouse” photo challenge that’s going around. In case you’re one of the few who have no idea what I’m talking about, a friend “nominates” you to post a photo with your husband or wife for 7 days. It’s all the rage at the moment.

I read an article today by a woman explaining why she wasn’t going to participate. She stated that out of the 100% total of our lives, only the best 5% make it onto social media. This gives the impression that our lives are an unattainable-to-everyone-else sort of perfection, and this can lead to feelings of inadequacy in one’s own personal life/relationship. 

We’ve all experienced this at some point or another, have we not?

  • Look at their beautiful house! I wish my house was big and fancy like theirs. And not a thing out of place! Mine is so tiny and cramped and it looks like a tornado swept through. 
  • What a sweet picture! They sure do seem to really love each other. He’s looking at her like Darcy looks at Elizabeth. My husband doesn’t look at me that way anymore. (Or, I’m eternally single and will never find someone to look at me like that.)
  • How do they manage to always have their kids looking like they just stepped out of a Gap ad? My kids have syrup from yesterday’s pancakes in their hair and two different shoes on. How does she have everything so together while I’m falling apart?
  • Look how full their church is! Our church is practically empty and those who are there don’t seem like they really want to be. Their preacher/programs/people must be so much better than ours.
  • They just got another new car! They have so many nice vehicles, and I have one that’s always needing work and is almost as old as I am.
  • This is their third vacation this summer! It must be nice to have the money and a husband willing to take off like that. All I’ve done this summer is stay home and clean…and no one even notices, let alone says, “Thank you.”

I could go on, but I think it’s unnecessary. We see all the great moments and fall into the trap of thinking things are always amazing for other people, while they stink for us. We get to looking at their perfectly manicured, seemingly greener grass and become so dissatisfied with our own pathetic looking lawn.

Let me let you in on a little secret: Nobody’s life is perfect.

Sure, there are those who have more than we have. There are even people who seem careless with the very things we have been desperately desiring and praying for, and we wonder why they get the “perfect life” while we’re left struggling to be content with what we see as our meager portion. 

Some post pictures or snippets of their picture perfect day just so they can appear better than others. They’re so proud of their material possessions and all the things they’ve collected that they need to show them off to receive validation of their importance. 

These people exist, sure. In fact, I have a few “friends” who would fit this description. I don’t, however, think they make up the majority of those who send others into a pit of despair and discontentment. I think most of the time it’s done unintentionally.

We all have things that we don’t want others to know about, things we keep to ourselves. Is this wrong? Of course not. Everybody doesn’t need to know every little detail of our day. (*Ahem.* We know friends that fall into this trap too, right? No? Just me? Okay.)

We live in the age of technology and social media where one can put his best foot forward and have everyone secretly envious of his life, all the while, behind that plastered on smile, he’s completely miserable. Where do we draw the line between portraying ourselves as shiny, always happy, smiling, unreal people and someone who is flawed and scarred, but real? Who would want to see that person?

Me. I would…and I’m sure I’m not alone.

There’s nothing wrong with posting happy pictures or funny anecdotes, just please don’t try to convince me that your life is like that 24/7. I wasn’t born yesterday. I know life is hard and everybody has problems and struggles. Pretending they don’t exist doesn’t make them go away.

I participated in the “Love Your Spouse Challenge.” I posted pictures of us because I love my husband, and I enjoy telling others that I love my husband. We are happy and have fun and enjoy each other’s company… but our life is not idyllic.

I can be incredibly stubborn, strong-willed, hot-tempered, and difficult. I can be very hard to get along with (believe it or not 😉), and sometimes, my hubs and I will argue about stupid things. Sometimes it’s over something more serious. It just happens.

I’m not going to get on social media and tell everyone when we’re fighting because that’s no one else’s business, but I’m also not going to pretend that these times never occur…because they do. When you live with someone, you’re going to disagree and fuss occasionally. Admitting that doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you a real person.

If you open certain doors or look in certain places in my home, you’re going to see clutter and messes and dust. On most days, if you were to walk in my kitchen, there would be dishes in the sink. There’s laundry overflowing. There’s cobwebs in the corner. I can’t remember the last time I pulled out my iron and ironing board. My refrigerator needs a good cleaning. I have stacks of adoption paperwork sitting in my bedroom, taunting me. My “to-do” list grows faster than I can mark things off. The logistics of having one car between the two of us can be complicated and annoying. 

I get sad. A lot. I have pretty serious anxiety about many, many things. I get so overwhelmed and retreat inside myself so I can put off dealing with things instead of facing them. I don’t always do things the way I should. Sometimes everyone and everything rubs me the wrong way and I have rotten attitude. Sometimes I have a rotten attitude while I’m sitting in church. Sometimes my faith falters and I don’t believe or hope or trust like I should. I know better…I just don’t do it. I have a pity party instead.

I’m not justifying my wrong behaviors; I’m just telling the truth. My life is not perfect. I am not perfect. I mess up. I fail. I fail at being a Christian, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, an employee, a pastor’s wife. 

I fail, just like we all do…but I don’t want to stay there and wallow in my failures. I want to get up, brush myself off, ask for forgiveness and grace to keep going. I want to be grateful for what I have instead of looking at what someone else has.

That’s the difference is shiny, plastic people and real people: grace and gratitude.

Plastic people don’t have any use for these things. Why should they be grateful for things they have when they can just get whatever they want whenever they want it? They don’t give grace to others or ask for any for themselves. Grace is for people beneath them

And guys, I’m about as far beneath them as one can get….and I need as much grace as I can get. I need it for myself and I need it for dealing with others. I can’t look down my nose at someone else when I’m having to look up from the mess where I’m finding myself. 

I got a sign for my home the other day that says, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” My house may not be big or fancy, our car may have too many miles, and my heart may be missing things I’ve never had, but when I focus on what I have instead of what I don’t have, I realize how incredibly blessed I am.

Thankfully, God is not short on grace, and we shouldn’t be either. We are all wounded, imperfect, real people after all.

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