In chapter 10 of This She’ll Defend, Carmen is surprised to hear a friend make the claim that her life is “perfect”. Carmen is stunned, but also a bit defensive. She’s struggled with issues that have been very difficult (no spoilers), but also very private matters. Carmen’s friends saw what she wanted them to see– the “social mask” that we wear in public, because some things are too private and painful to share with others.
I think that we seldom know what other people struggle with unless they’ve decided to share it with us. We all have the friends who seem perfect. To look at them, it is easy to assume that the insecurities or struggles that we face have somehow escaped them.
Years ago, I had a beautiful “Barbie Doll” friend who drove the Lexus, had a handsome husband with a great paying job, lunched daily with a group of friends, and had the children who seemed to have been cut out of the Lands End catalog. But I didn’t look closely enough to see the fine cracks in the carefully constructed façade that she showed the world.
I still remember the day that I was at the mall outside of Atlanta and observed an argument between this friend and her husband. The belittling way he spoke to her shocked me like a blast of frigid air. I was frozen in my spot. Could this “perfect” friend have a verbally abusive husband? Was her husband stopping at verbal abuse or did he also hit her? At that moment, I realized that I was so grateful for my life. Sure, my house wasn’t nearly as fancy and I drove a Chrysler mini-van, but who cares!? Nothing would be worth the demeaning treatment I observed her receiving that day and in front of her two children.
I never spoke of what I’d seen to her, but I made a point of praying for her regularly and of offering my support to her more often. Once I’d seen the “truth” of her life, the cracks in her façade were obvious to me, and I was ashamed that I’d never noticed before. My friend ended up leaving her husband and although I don’t talk with her often, she seems to have made a good life for herself now. She also has overcome an eating disorder which almost claimed her life at one point. And yet, I can still easily remember the way that I’d envied her life when we first met.
Just like Carmen’s life wasn’t perfect, I doubt we’d find a person whose life is perfect. I feel that we are called to love each other and be aware of the friends and acquaintances who may need our prayers and our support, even when they don’t ask for it. The older I get, the easier it seems to feel gratitude for the things I cherish in my life and I worry much less about what other people have.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on the subject. Has there been a time when you’ve felt envious of someone else’s perfect life, only to realize the deep struggles the person was wrestling with in private? Has a situation made you grateful for what you have instead of jealous because of what you don’t have?