What It’s, Like (Comparison Stopping part 2)

Don’t you love it? It’s, like, the best thing ever. It’s even better when you’re trying to make a statement or a comparison and you forget the word needed for that sort of thing and you’ve got no choice but to involuntarily intersperse that word before the other: That’s what it’s like, like.

It’s an interesting slip, to be sure. Nowadays, teenagers of every stripe use that word with abandon. Adults too. Is it because there’s a subconscious yearning for validation? I believe that few things in life are in-and-of-themselves anything unless there’s something to reflect back on, reflect back from. A sounding board. A mirror.

What do you like? What are you like? Did you self-actualize? Y’know, Freud’s model of developmental psychology is based on the interaction with our peers in society. That’s a simplified definition, but really, an accurate appraisal. And it makes sense, too. We become, at a certain level of course, that which those reflect back to us. And when all you are is surrounded by are those who themselves are yearning for validation, how can anyone become, like, anything? Like anything?

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

In my opinion, the overuse of the word “like” in common conversation (guilty) reflects the inherent need of human beings to relate to something. We need validation. And the “like” indicator is simply a symptom of a greater need. The truth is, we as humans cannot self-actualize. It took two humans to bring us together into one, bodily. And the three members of the Godhead to create then recreate our spirit. What makes us think that after all that, we can bring out of ourselves, that which will still the yearning and sate the existential hunger we feel? It’s not a rhetorical question. If you have a better answer than Jesus, pray tell.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, emphasis mine) This is either the most revolutionary piece of information to be leveled at the human race, or it means nothing. Paul says that upon believing in Jesus, we receive a higher standard from which to compare. And when you see the struggle in light of Jesus, you also begin to see that taking from others to add to yourself is, like, a less-than admirable way to become who you are meant to be. I mean, if you didn’t think yourself up, what makes you think you can become who you’re meant to be on your own? I understand that this is anathema to a humanist, but Jesus always did advocate selflessness. The give-until-it-hurts mentality. This doesn’t mean that we don’t receive from parents and family and friends and community, pieces of identity with which to substantiate our lives but I would like to say that with reference to God, the struggle to actualize must be acheived in the emptying of ourselves in order to receive God first, ourselves second. That’s the order. “In your patience possess ye your souls.” (Luke 21:19)

This is a long passage, but take a moment and read it, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass (a mirror): For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man (or woman) shall be blessed in [their] deed.” (James 1:22-25) What James is saying here is that if we don’t choose to substantiate our lives on the pattern of the word of God—the text that makes up the very mind of Christ—we’re like, like… I don’t know what we’ll be like. We forget what we’re like—Who we’re like. And God really can’t do much with the person who suffers from a perpetual spiritual identity crisis. He’s here to help. Just ask.

“Produce your cause, saith the Lord, bring forth your strong reasons” (Isaiah 41:21)

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)

Comparison Stopping

“Did ya ever get the feelin’ you’re being watched?” Bugs Bunny asks Gossamer, the shaggy red monster. “That the eyes of strange, eery things are upon ya?” At this, Gossamer turns to see, horror of horrors—”PEOPLE!” He then proceeds to run screaming from the imaginary audience, through the haunted castle, breaking down every wall from here to vanishing point.

I must confess, I’ve felt this way many times. Terrified of some broadcast opinion or perception from some faceless someone. At one level, what you sense from someone else is just your own fears and insecurities. But when you make your way out of the tangled forest of that wrong thinking into a fuller realization of just who God says you are (a “new creation” 2 Corinthians 5:17), these perceptions become a little bit more ambiguous and amorphous. And if they don’t line up with what God thinks of you they’re just as wrong. Let me put it to you plainly: You are not who someone thinks and projects that you are. Unless, of course, that someone is God, or someone else whose mind is “renewed” to His truth (see Romans 12:1-2).

Turn it around and look at it this way. Freedom from this emotional miasma is impossible if a person is not a Christian. Jesus died to recreate our spirit and to give us life more abundantly (see John 10:10). This “abundant life” is full of peace, joy, direction, and a genuine sense of centeredness. Now if you’re experiencing this… liberty, as I will refer to it, then your interaction with others, Christian and non, should be as uplifting and encouraging as possible.

If you’re on your way (as I and everyone else is) but maybe not experiencing God’s liberty very often, if at all, then consider these maxims of interaction:

Not because of: Don’t ever do anything (Anything) because of what you might sense someone thinks of you. Your worth comes from God alone and anyone’s adulation or admiration isn’t ultimately going to make you any better of a person.

Not in spite of: If you feel in any way insecure about some aspect of your character, your personality, your body, don’t condemn anyone in thought or word who might be worse off in any of those departments than you. And especially if you’ve been blessed with confidence or attractiveness. Be humble. Be a servant (see Matthew 20:27).

“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

God is the one we’re living unto. The One “with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13). Any sin we commit is toward Him first (see Psalms 51:4). We need to learn how to relate to Him as a real person and not just a faceless entity that we’ll meet on some “Other Side” for the first time.

“For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” (2 Corinthians 10:12)

I don’t know if Gossamer ever overcame his irrational fear of what other people thought of him, but we can! With God’s help of course.