The Comparison Game
By Shawnelle Eliasen
It was my birthday, and my girlfriends held a tea for me. I sat in Nancy’s kitchen with a bevy of my closest pals. I loved being in Nan’s kitchen. It was spiffy. She was an A-1 housekeeper. I noticed the glimmering, dark countertops. I was captivated by the gleaming stainless appliances. And I could see straight through the windows. They weren’t clouded with fingerprints of varying sizes.
“I’ve looked at many houses for sale,” Nancy told us. “And to save time, I’ve learned to peek inside the oven first.”
“Why would you do that?” Karla asked.
“Because if the oven is a mess, the rest of the house is, too,” Nancy said.
“Are you serious?” I asked.
“You bet,” Nancy said.
I thought of my oven and grimaced. I’m a baker – cakes and cookies and the ever-runneth-over apple pie. I was notorious for oven fires. It’s not that I want a dirty oven. I have five children and a lot of things to do. I decided that if my old Victorian house was on the market, my sweet friend Nan probably wouldn’t be interested.
But I envied Nancy’s housekeeping skills. I could never keep a house like hers. Everything in its place. Everything shiny and clean. I’ve tried. And Nancy has tried to teach me. I just can’t cut it. I wish I could.
I looked around the table that day at the smiling faces of my dear friends. At one time or another, I’ve been envious of them all. They are a group of talented, gifted women. And I’m guilty of playing the game that every woman has played: The Comparison Game.
We compare on every level, from the not so important stuff – like a clean oven – to the really important stuff like character.
Sena is wise. And she makes a killer grilled cheese sandwich. Teresa prays like a sweet song. Betsy is serene and calm. Tammy oozes God’s love, grace and mercy. Karla’s a great mom. Dee is an investor – she pours, like sweet honey, into the lives of those around her.
I’d like to be all of these things – to have all of these gifts. Trouble is, when I compare, I always fall short.
I was still marveling at the luster of Nancy’s kitchen when Sena placed a cherry streusel on the table. “While we have dessert today, let’s celebrate Shawnelle. We all love her. It’s her birthday. Let’s share one thing that we love about our friend.”
I turned as red as the cherries on the streusel.
“I’ll go first,” Sena said. “I’ll bet every one of you would say that Shawnelle is your best friend. That’s how she makes you feel. Like you’re the most important.”
Tears welled in my eyes.
Nancy was next. “Shawnelle looks into my eyes when I talk. She’s never distracted. She cares.”
The tears spilled over.
I sat that afternoon and listened as my friends shared from their hearts. I was humbled and surprised. I was touched and delighted. I was blessed beyond measure. My friends shared about how I had blessed them. I hadn’t even known. They spoke of things that I’d never seen in myself. Go figure.
I understood, that day, that we’re not paper doll cut-outs. We’re different. Different strengths. Different weaknesses. And as I drove home that day, I asked God to remind me, the next time that I try to measure myself against a friend’s gifts – that he made me unique, for his purpose.
Dirty oven and all.
Shawnelle Eliasen has been published in "MomSense", "Guideposts", "Hearts at Home" and in Cecil Murphey’s book, “Christmas Miracles.”