After 6 years out of the classroom, I enrolled in an exercise class at our local community college this semester. Last Monday, I got to experience all the excitement of a “first day of school” again.
This shouldn’t mean much to a 28 year old momma of toddlers. However, after hanging out all summer with some adventurous middle- and high-school aged girls, I caught the first-day-of-school energy.
I got up, got dressed, prepped the twins to spend lunch time with their daddy (so much fun), and even got to class EARLY (big difference between 18 year old me and 28 year old me). I was ready to embrace all that God had for my first day of school.
Unfortunately, all that positive energy shriveled away when I walked into the classroom. Replacing it was a familiar sense of feeling intimidated, self-conscious, and oddly uncomfortable in my own skin.
As many of us would, I found a coping mechanism to deal with my anxiety: comparison.
I scanned the room and found her: someone who appeared less fit, less stylish, less something than I was hoping to appear. My superficial superiority gave me artificial confidence about my own impressiveness.
I did not ask this girl about her day. I did not compliment her cute hair or comment on her tenacity in the class. To be honest, her courage to be there inspired me, but I kept that to myself.
I missed a beautiful opportunity to get to know a lovely image-bearer of the most high God because I was too concerned with my own status.
The irony is, I had consciously chosen to “dress down” to appear less-than-concerned with my appearance that morning (insert dramatic eye roll here).
I spent more time in that class in comparison trap than in SYMOTA (setting your mind on things above). My concern for self-preservation was out-shining my passion to share God’s love. The biggest stranger I encountered in that room was myself.
Had I set my mind on the way God sees me, and my classmates for that matter, I would have recalled this verse that I had once memorized:
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12
Friend, I suspect you have had a similar experience. Whether you are a freshman in high school or a fresh new mommy at a park play-date, you have probably faced a similar temptation on your first day. It’s great to appear confident, cool, collected, but it’s not ok to leverage other people’s flaws to do so.
Ironically, at the foundation of compassion for others is a settled and confident spirit. I don’t think one can show compassion without confidence. Rather than putting others down to appear that we have it all together, what if we dealt with our insecurities through Jesus Christ’s faithful love for us? This kind of love fills every void and bubbles over into compassion for others.
What if we lived with a readiness to be selfless instead of self-conscious?
What if we focused on the impact we could make on others instead of whether or not they make us feel good about ourselves?
What if we dressed to bless, instead of dressing to impress?
Whether you face your first day of class, work, cross-fit, or the senior center, I challenge you to learn from my embarrassing first day blunders. Let’s make room for some Christlike compassion in our concern for great first impressions.
In grateful humility,
P.S. I am profoundly grateful for 20+ weeks of class to see how Gods grace provides a do-over for compassion > comparison.
Looking for more back-to-school encouragement? Check out this article about the Questions We Ask during Back To School (and the One question that really matters!)