we are not diminished

I was at lunch with several friends today and our conversation brought to mind one of my very favorite quotes about comparison. Which in turn made me think of this post I wrote for my private journalog about four years ago. I went home to find it and was grateful all over again for the words of my wise far-away friend (who still lives far away and who I called for advice and perspective with a difficult decision just last week. I love her.)

I’m sharing my original post here because it’s a reminder I still repeat to myself whenever feelings of envy or inadequacy start to creep in. It’s brought me a lot of peace and helped me to more fully celebrate the joys and successes of others.


i emailed a far-away friend of mine today. just a quick message, with a few lines that explained my current overwhelmed and feeling-inadequate-in-every-way state. part of my feelings of inadequacy came from seeing the great accomplishments of another friend – she’s a writer! she actually writes books! she has a crazy busy life, and yet she makes the time to write. i am so happy for her accomplishments and so inspired by her determination.

and yet, instead of focusing on how happy i was for her, i let my selfishness creep in by comparing myself to this beautiful, wonderful writer friend of mine. i took her accomplishment and twisted it around to focus on my failure. i said to myself: i am a wannabe writer who has studied and thought about writing more hours than i’ve actually done it. i’ve started a novel that has now sat unfinished for more years than i want to admit. what is my problem?

and i sent that last question off in an email to my far-away friend.

her response:

About Writer Friend. Wow is right. That girl. So incredible! Writer Friend rocks and so do you. You have no problem! You haven’t finished your novel yet, but that’s ok. What’s not ok is constantly feeling like you’re behind or not enough! I hate to see my friend feel that way. You are leading such a meaningful, and in so many ways, selflessly full life. Don’t forget that, and don’t get discouraged comparing yourself to others. If you are true to yourself and what you feel God wants you to be doing, then you will be able to look back and be proud of the way you spent your time and what you accomplished. When we see what others are able to get done, we don’t see what they leave undone, or what we would have to leave undone if we took the same path.

i cried because she loves me and i cried because she is right.

how we—writer friend, far-away friend, me, you, everyone—are each leading our lives is meaningful. it’s different for each of us, and what i can accomplish today won’t be the same as what someone else can. and that’s okay. i can celebrate others accomplishing their dreams without being jealous about the state of mine. i can choose to let joy for you and your success help me grow and be a happier person. even inspire me to make positive changes at the right time for me and my family.

or i can choose to darken that joy with envy and unhappiness.

why do i ever choose the latter?

as soon as i read her words, i was reminded of this quote by Jeffrey R. Holland:

May I plead with us not to be hurt—and certainly not to feel envious—when good fortune comes to another person? We are not diminished when someone else is added upon. We are not in a race against each other to see who is the wealthiest or the most talented or the most beautiful or even the most blessed.

i love this truth so much!

i am grateful for friends who inspire me and friends who listen, for friends who lift me up when i’ve crumpled in a self-pity heap and gently remind me that there is light and there is God and there is me.

i am not diminished when writer friend writes and publishes her amazing novels or because far-away friend recently started my dream job. guess what: we all rock.

and so do you.

i quote: on writing

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say. –Anaïs Nin

I don’t know about lying for novelists. I look at some of the great novelists, and I think the reason they are great is that they’re telling the truth. The fact is they’re using made-up names, made-up people, made-up places, and made-up times, but they’re telling the truth about the human being—what we are capable of, what makes us lose, laugh, weep, fall down, and gnash our teeth and wring our hands and kill each other and love each other.  –Maya Angelou

I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all.  –Richard Wright, American Hunger

I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.
–James Michener

Write about what really interests you, whether it is real things or imaginary things, and nothing else. –C.S. Lewis

If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.  –Isaac Asimov

Ink on paper is as beautiful to me as flowers on the mountains — God composes, why shouldn’t we? –Terri Guillemets

i never think at all when i write
nobody can do two things at the same time
and do them both well
–Don Marquis

The faster I write the better my output. If I’m going slow, I’m in trouble. It means I’m pushing the words instead of being pulled by them. –Raymond Chandler

One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper patterns at the right moment.  –Hart Crane