You know how they say the best defense is a good offense?
Of course, I’m not sure who “they” are. I was never much of an athlete. Truth be told, I was more of a trip-over-my-own-two-feet-during-the-game type of girl. (Oh, how I wish that wasn’t a real story!) Still, the advice seems to be common enough that both the sporty and not-so-sporty types can understand it.
It’s better to land the first punch. We’re safer if we hit them before they hit us. Right? I suppose this strategy works in a lot of circumstances. Boxing. Basketball. Facebooking.
Oh, wait. Maybe not that last one.
See, I’ve noticed that a lot of the icky comparison games so many of us find ourselves playing – that I find myself playing – are motivated by fear. We’re afraid others will hurt us, so we strike first. On those days we feel insecure or unhappy about our less-than-perfect lives, we lash out rather than waiting for someone to notice our humanness and point it out for the world to see.
We walk around, convinced we’re not enough. Not good enough, not smart enough or crafty enough, not organized enough or successful enough. And in an effort to hide those fears – and protect ourselves from the insults and injuries we’re certain are inevitable, we put up our defenses.
And those defenses look a whole lot like offenses.
Sometimes being this offensive defense looks like judging other women. Surprisingly, though, it doesn’t always mean we’re judging each other for doing things badly. No, sometimes, I think, we’re more likely to judge the woman who seems too put together, too successful, too happy than we are to judge one who’s more like us (or at least how we feel inside) – stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated or tired.
Going on the offense by being defensive might also look like self-deprecation. This is my weapon of choice. I’d much rather poke fun at myself than wait for you to do it. At least this way I’m in control and it doesn’t hurt as much. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.
For example, you might not care at all if my daughter hasn’t had a vegetable in three days, but I’m quick to announce it anyway, usually with a joke that I’ve been nominated for Mom of the Year.
Funny, right? Maybe.
But the truth is – every time we judge another woman for “trying too hard” or make fun of ourselves for being less than perfect, we’re not defending ourselves from anything. Instead, we’re weighing ourselves down with negativity, twisted words and buried emotions. And honestly? We’re weighing each other down while we’re at it.
I say we quit that.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths,
but only such as is good for building up,
as fits the occasion,
that it may give grace to those who hear.
~ Ephesians 4:29
Let’s quit the comparison game, the no-win competition where we judge each other for successes just as harshly as we judge each other’s failures. Let’s quit comparing the intimate knowledge of our own weaknesses and struggles with the top-line version everyone else presents in public.
And let’s stop making sure we land that first punch on our own hearts, shall we? [Yes, I promise I am talking to myself here!] Fine, so we know ourselves well enough to know where we fall short. But let’s give ourselves a little grace – and trust others to do the same.
Let’s lower our defenses – and raise a white flag of peace. Let’s stop beating ourselves – and each other – up. Because maybe the best defense, the best offense is by not seeing this life and our relationships as a battle in the first place. Maybe we find heart-safety by surrounding ourselves with “weapons” that look like honesty and grace and good, old-fashioned love rather than criticism and sarcasm.
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God
with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’
This is the first and greatest commandment.
A second is equally important:
‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
The entire law and all the demands of the prophets
are based on these two commandments.”
~ Matthew 22:37-40