BY BRITTANY TYLER
Left to my own psychological devices, I often find myself leaning either towards feelings of inferiority or feelings of superiority, in comparison with others. It is a rare but blissful moment when I feel balanced and completely at peace with who I am, who God made me to be, without the need to compare myself to someone else. Well, a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to feel both inferior and superior at the same moment.
Every morning, I go for a swim at a nearby pool. The earlier I arrive, the better chance I have to get a whole lane to myself. But as I arrived late on the day in question, the pool was full; I was forced to share a lane. Huffing and puffing in frustration, I descended into the water. Mind you, this pool is mostly utilized by those falling into the elderly category, so even though I am no Olympic swimmer, I usually am the fastest guppy there. On this day however, there was one other young girl, though she was also very slow. But she was beautiful. And since she was in a swimsuit, as we all were, her outfit didn’t leave much to the imagination – she really was exquisite. Immediately, I felt a jolt of insecurity. I mean, I’m there to swim, not to show off, and so I’m sure I look pretty ridiculous with my violet swim cap and rainbow suit (hand-me-down, courtesy of my mother). Anyhow, I suppressed the feeling, and began to freestyle. At least I’m faster than her, I thought, subconsciously.
There were three of us there in the lane: me, the beauty, and a woman of age (and I mean a lot of age, to put it delicately). The lane was very narrow, and so it was very hard to avoid contact as we passed each other. I had to choose between being kicked or swimming into the wall to avoid human touch. I would have had to slow down my pace to let someone pass without bruising.
Yet I refused to alter my routine. I needed to swim 1000 meters (50 lengths) in 25 minutes, or someone was gonna get hurt (probably me)! My frustration grew with each stroke, as I had to continually (and uncomfortably) rotate my head to check if one of them was in my way. Each time I passed one of them, my subconscious would utter either ah, what does this old lady think she’s doing! or why does the prom queen have to come to this pool? The older woman was a bit on the large side, so I resented the fact that she left me so little room. And the young girl, in contrast, had such beautiful legs, that I was full of envy every time we crossed paths. Then, there were times when they were both at the end of the lane, leaving me no room to touch the wall and keep my momentum on the round-about! So I would instead stand up, turn around, and start flopping towards the other side, obviously demonstrating my anger.
I realized though, as I neared my 1000th meter, that the reason I am so much happier when I have the whole lane to myself, is because I don’t have to share or accommodate anyone else. I can swim as sloppily as I want, without having to consider anyone but myself. But instead of getting that from the get-go, I harbored anger towards them both, feeling superior to the elder, because I’m younger and stronger, and feeling inferior to the young lass, because she was so beautiful, even in a swim cap.
It’s interesting how, often, we are more prone to sin when in the context of others. There is no opportunity to compete when we are alone, but in community it is so easy to feel either inferior or superior, and we hold so much at stake in our egos, that we forget about God, that He created us as we are, and that it is not arbitrary that I look as goofy as I do in a swim cap.