BY MAKENNA SONES
I am embarrassed by my wood floors right now.
Tread carefully, Kindreds. Wear socks as you walk around or you might just pick up debris that should have been vacuumed weeks ago.
I think to myself, “You should see it.” But I really don’t want you to. The hardened and stuck pieces of food around the stove. The chocolate chip stain on the kitchen rug. The sticky drops of who-knows-what by the trashcan, which I avoid looking at directly. The dusty imprints of cat paws around the kitchen table making friends with crumbs of Purina cat food. The breakage of a gluten-free pretzel.
If you examined my floors as I critically as I examine others, you would probably say I’m not a very good home keeper. And with how I’ve been taking care of my home lately, you would be right.
I recently discovered a very gross part of myself. Even grosser than my floors. I can’t tell you how long it’s been there, but I know it’s been there long enough to have to be cleaned off with some heavy-duty stuff.
The Spirit has gently been nudging me toward this self-realization for a while, and it was only recently as I read through my Bible study that He gave me the words encapsulating all of my struggles of late.
“Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God's grace" (2 Corinthians 1:12).
Makenna, you struggle with sincerity.
Hold up. I am SO sincere. I pride myself on being sincere to others and to myself.
And there I felt the nudging again. There in my defense and in my reasoning is my problem. I have so much pride because I compare myself to others making me self-focused, which manifests into this silent killer called envy and prevents sincerity from taking root in my life.
Please, read that last sentence again.
This is the trap where I think so many of us find ourselves and don’t even realize it. Pride chokes out our ability to be sincere in our love and joy over others.
Coming to the realization I am insincere more often than I am sincere took a chunk out of my identity. I take pride in who I am, what I’m good at and what I’m not. This pride is not always rooted in my identity in Christ but in my own talents and self-awareness. Whether you are like me in being sure of yourself or you are completely unsure, both can be a form of pride.
Who do you compare yourself to? I’m all over the place. Sometimes I never feel good enough. My upper arms aren’t skinny enough. My writing style is nowhere near as eloquent as hers. What talents do I have anyway? Netflixing isn’t a talent. Netflixing isn’t even a word. My life is not going in the same direction his is, but we have the same degree. Why does her Instagram filter look so good while mine looks like I’m trying too hard?
Other times, I think far too highly of myself. I’m glad I don’t have to wear a ton of makeup like some girls. My house will be spotless and look like a Pinterest photo. Look at me, working at a magazine at 23 and making it. Oh, I’m glad I’m not one of those crazy girlfriends who is all dramatic.
And what do all of these down on yourself and holier-than-thou things have in common? Every one of them has to do with comparing someone else to me. When has the standard ever been me? Never!
How am I supposed to be sincere in my love and joy for others when I am constantly trying to compare myself to them? It’s impossible.
Your standard is Jesus. Whatever pedestal or ditch I am looking at people from is not helping me conduct myself in a godly sincerity (2 Corinthians 1:12). I’m placing people above and below me, making it impossible for me to cultivate sincerity in my life. I’m envious of what they have that I don’t, destroying my relationship and my ability to celebrate happiness in their life — even my own! I’m boastful of what I have that they don’t, puffing myself up to compensate for the areas I feel weak and unqualified.
We must have humility, Kindreds, in order to avoid placing ourselves on either of those plains. And not the feeble, Pharisaic humility where we boast about how our core strength is sincerity. We need the kind of humility that is not self-deprecating or conceited but mirrored and cross-checked with Jesus’ posture toward others. The most sincere people I know are not those whose lips utter the word sincere in conversation, but use sincerity to encourage.
I want to encourage you and build you up to see you succeed. Imagine if we sincerely built one another up while setting the standard at Jesus instead of ourselves. What if our eyes were focused on what Jesus said about us, our successes and our flaws? What if we spoke those truths into one another’s lives instead of the push and shove of everyday life? I think as I continue to make Jesus my standard, my words to each of you will truly be sincere.
Being sincere isn’t easy. It’s been one of the most challenging changes I’ve had to make in my life. It’s changing that simple, “I’m fine” into, “Actually, this is how I’ve actually been feeling.”
I’ve got some cleaning to do on the floors of my heart. Wiping up the sticky envy stains on the trashcan and the lint balls of comparison there in the corner. But after I’m done, it will be nice to walk with bare feet again without the fear of any unwanted grime.
Sincerely (and I sincerely mean that),
PHOTO BY MATTHEW HENRY