Read Philippians 2:1-11
A friend shared with me how her daughter had been up all night throwing up. The poor thing! While I felt bad for her, I immediately thought of something that happened to me involving throw-up. A natural segway, I told her about how my oldest child got sick in the back of the minivan and threw vomit all the way to the front seat, covering my new purse. Then we went home and my other daughter had a diarrhea attack in the bathtub, full of water and her sister. Well, I was pregnant at the time and the very scene sent me heaving into the sink.
It was a terrific story that really showed off my mothering woes. I was kinda of proud of my harrowing tale until I tried to remember what my friend had said that reminded me of the vomiting/diarrhea/heaving incident in the first place. It was then I realized I had just “one-upped” my friend. She shared about her life and I topped her frustrations with how it could have been worse… and had been worse for me.
One-upping is such a common practice that we don’t even think abut it most of the time. A person shares how they got a flat tire on vacation and we have a story from personal experience or even someone else’s story that was more sensational and more gory.
“Oh ya, well we were on vacation once and got a flat tire… in the snow… and we had to snow-shoe to our cabin… where the electricity was out… and 12 of our 14 children didn't have coats... and we had to chop firewood with a butter knife... and antelopes had taken over the food supply."
You get the idea. There will always be something to counter with – my kids are harder to handle or I have more of them, my husband works longer hours or we are poorer, my house is smaller, my laundry pile is bigger.
The problem with one-upping is that it squelches compassion. Instead of focusing on the other person, we turn the attention on ourselves.
Selfishness comes more naturally than compassion. Or is that just me? "Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand" (Philippians 2:4). This is a hard habit to break. But one I'm working hard at.
I can have a different response to someone’s problems. Instead of telling her about how it could have been worse (and had been for me a time or two), I can hear her frustrations and feel compassion. I’ve been there, I know how hard it is for her, even if I haven’t experienced the exact thing.
There is a place for sensational stories! How boring life would be if we never shared about the crazy times. But when a friend needs compassion, sympathy, or just a listening ear, we can do that too. I’ll save the vomiting/diarrhea/heaving story for another day.
"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast;
it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful."
1 Corinthians 13:4-5