Thoughts on 2 Corinthians: How to Respond to Comparison and Judgment

The human brain contains what is called the comparative frontoparietal network which allows us to take in stimuli and compare, contrast, and categorize as part of our biological makeup. Making quick decisions based on comparison must have been important in agrarian life: pick the clean fruit; leave the bug-ravaged fruit.

In their article “The culture of social comparison,” Baldwin and Mussweiler posit that “comparative thinking can be observed in humans even as early as infanthood. This evidence suggests that comparison is one of the most basic building blocks of human cognition.”

So the mechanism to compare is a key part of being human, and it has a couple of avenues: evaluation or judgment.

Aren’t those the same thing?

There is a slight difference here: evaluation means to assess objectively, whereas “judgments are emotional in nature and often suggest a moral, self-righteous approach” (Jameson).

And in James, amongst other books, it is clear that judgment should be left to God alone: “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4.12, ESV).

But in Paul’s second letter, he experiences both comparison and judgment by those to whom he is addressing the letter—the followers of Christ in Corinth.

In chapter 10, he references one of their criticisms against him:

His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech is of no account

2 Corinthians 10.10, ESV

In this criticism, the Corinthians are suggesting that Paul is not strong enough to lead them, and there is the additional insinuation that he falsely represents himself in his letters.

Ouch. This is quite a harsh judgment upon Paul, who has devoted himself to this population.

HOW DOES PAUL RESPOND TO UNFAIR JUDGMENT?

Paul acknowledges his faults but defends his character

He begins his defense in this way: “Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge.” And he goes on to indicate that he never suggested otherwise: “in every way we have made this plain to you in all things” (11.6-7, ESV).

Paul warns the Corinthians of the “apostles” to which they are comparing him

Paul even refers to these other leaders as as “super-apostles” which makes me think he is offering a tone of sarcasm. He insists “such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles for Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (11.13-14, ESV).

Paul implores his audience to indulge him in a little hypothetical comparison scenario

Paul responds to the comparisons the Corinthians initiated. He is saying, ok, pretend I were someone who boasted, let’s see how I stack up:

Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea [he continues to list the dangers he encountered]… in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on my of my anxiety for all the churches

PAUL ENGAGES IN THE COMPARISON, BUT JESUS HAS A BETTER WAY

Paul continues to make his case for why he is a worthy apostle: “l must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord” (12.1, ESV).

Did you note in this excerpt that Paul acknowledges that boasting gains nothing? If he knew that, why did he do it?

Perhaps he feels so strongly about aiding the population of Corinth that he wants to try and win their trust back in any way possible. Or—and this is not mutually exclusive—perhaps Paul fell victim to the human response to harsh judgment: defense. We spring to defend ourselves in the face of unfair judgment.

But Paul writes of his growing conceit, and how he was humbled:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about (the thorn of the flesh harassing him and checking his conceit), that that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 9-10, ESV

So from verses 9-10 Paul determines:

  • God’s grace is of so much more value than the opinions of others.
  • Why would we need Him if we were without faults and flaws?
  • We should not boast of our strengths but of our shortcomings because then God is glorified all the more.
  • Weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, calamities— we accept all for the sake of Christ.

WHERE DOES COMPARISON AND JUDGEMENT OCCUR FOR US?

On Social Media

We take the curated, exterior lives of others and compare them to our messy interiors. It’s an exercise in disappointment every time.

I understand that none of us want to highlight the low points and messiness— but at what point does what we put forth present a false version of ourselves? I don’t know about you, but my favorite accounts are the ones with a balance of the beautiful curation paired with the real and the messy.

When I started this account, it was a hard decision for me to go filter-free when I film my face on stories, but I decided that people deserve to see the real me, for better or worse. Don’t get me wrong, I still cringe every time I watch my own stories; vulnerability is not always pleasant.

In the Workplace

Are you in a position working alongside other people in similar positions? I am. Situations like these naturally lend themselves to comparison.

Though we are all made to have certain strengths and weaknesses, when we place two or more things (or people) next to one another, our human brains take note of what distinguishes one from the other.

I am struggling, for instance, with feeling like I have much to offer in the online capacity. As an educator, I have always felt more comfortable with in-person teaching situations, and here I am navigating the tech world as best I can and still feel like I am coming up short at times.

In Family Roles

Do you have a sister or brother to whom you were compared? Or perhaps you compare yourself to a sibling without any exterior influence. Did you marry in to a family and feel compared to the members within? Were you adopted and compare yourself to the biological children of the family?

Though I want to believe that all families were good about reserving comparisons like mine was, I know that just is not true. Many of you probably felt the sting of comparison and judgment just by being who you were designed flawlessly to be.

In Parenting

I remember hearing someone once say: “everyone is an expert in parenting… and then they have children.”

If you are not yet a parent, you do not yet know the world of scrutiny and judgment in which we parents currently exist: people watch how I parent at the grocery store, at a playground, at school drop-off, you name it.

This hyper-scrutiny of parents is relatively new, historically speaking.

Time was, if citizens heard about a child getting injured in an unusual way— falling from the top of a hay bale stack, let’s say—the response was usually sympathetic. “Poor child, poor parents,” was the general response; “I hope they are all ok.”

No longer. Perhaps it is our brazen online culture that seems to enhance unfriendly comments with the security of the screen to mask the commenter— but the reaction to the same situation is to find who to blame and blame them loudly: “Someone should call CPS! Some people should never be allowed to have children!”

Judgments like these take no account for human error—no account for the imperfection that occurs in all of us.

And those of us in the role of parent know that there is no harder or holier work on this earth— parents need grace upon grace upon grace.

And those of us in the role of parent know that there is no harder or holier work on this earth— parents need grace upon grace upon grace.

Speaking for myself and other parents with whom I interact, we do the very best we can with the children given to us and with the resources at hand. And it still isn’t enough. His grace has to take over. And thank goodness “his power is made perfect in weakness.”

LET’S APPLY WHAT PAUL LEARNED TO OURSELVES

His grace is of so much more value than the opinions of others. In the end, it really does not matter what other people think; I can do everything “right” and people will still form their own opinions of me. It is only what God thinks of me that matters.

Why would we need Him if we were without faults and flaws? If we were perfect, we would have no need for God. We are flawed beings—yes, even that seemingly perfect influencer on Instagram is flawed— and God delights in supplicating our needs.

We should not boast of our strengths but of our shortcomings because then God is glorified all the more. How many of us truly boast of— or even reveal—our shortcomings? We seem to think that if we share our weaknesses, we will not be accepted. And yet, the opposite is true.

Brené Brown, in her second Ted Talk, Listening to Shame, asked the audience if they thought the vulnerability they saw on stage at TED was weakness or pure courage? The audience indicated the latter.

But we as humans, and believers, don’t tend to boast of our shortcomings. God is pushing me deeper into this. He called me to share my struggles with anxiety this last March, and I felt as vulnerable and weak as you might imagine. But the response was lovely. Still accepted by my friends, I was able to boast of how God helped me out when I could not help myself.

Those of you who have been with the blog since the beginning probably remember Alexis talking about this very verse in our Sips&Scripts chat. She is a go-getter, and wisely reflected that achievement can often go hand-in-hand with chasing the approval of man and not God.

God cares not for our worldly achievement; he wants us to achieve total reliance on Him.

Weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, calamities— we accept all for the sake of Christ.

All four of Paul’s conclusions are easier said than done—that I recognize. But isn’t Christ worth it? Isn’t he worth enduring all of the above? Isn’t heaven worth it?

It is human to hide weakness, recoil from insults, actively try to avoid hardships, persecutions, and calamities.

But that is why God’s kingdom is upside-down from the impulses of the flesh.


Comparison can be unfair. Judgment can sting. But we are His beloved, no matter what the world might try to say otherwise.

with His love,

Adelaide

Sips & Scripts: A pair of verses for pandemic burnout

This is Michelle.

Her drink is coffee with homemade dulce de leche.

And she is not sitting across from me on a quilt in the park, as the last several Sips & Scripts would suggest. She is in her house in San Diego with her two sweet daughters, her husband, and her enormous doggie, Zeus.

You see, Michelle is a friend from my graduate program at San Diego State University. I can still see her: this hip-but-not-hipster girl from New York, walking around our classroom performing a literature-based skit in her Mickey Mouse shirt with the utmost confidence. Michelle was cool and different, and I loved getting to know someone outside of my usual circle of friends.

Almost as soon as my MA degree was conferred, I moved to Florida to take a professorship, and Michelle and I still kept up with each other via email. I’ll never forget sending her the email that read: “so… without notice, Andrew and I are expecting our first baby due mid-October” and I instantly received one in return that said (pardon her French) “No sh**! I’m pregnant and due mid-October, too!”

Our babies were born exactly one day apart: my eldest son on October 14th, and her eldest daughter in October 15th. So far, plans to arrange their marriage have not gone so well seeing as we have seen each other… once…maybe twice since their births.

Nevertheless, it has been wonderful to keep in contact with Michelle despite cross-country moves, job changes, and the births of subsequent children.

In more recent years, our conversations have drifted back to the topics of Jesus and faith as both of us have grown deeper into our roles as Christian women.

When I asked if Michelle was interested in having a Sips & Scripts chat, she said yes immediately, and was prepared with her topic and verses when we met via Zoom. I would expect nothing less.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LOVE AND CHARITY

“During the current struggles of the pandemic and the strained racial relations, there are a couple of verses that have helped me and offered guidance.

The first verse is a familiar one, 1 Corinthians 13.13:

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love

ESV

But in the King James Version, it reads:

And so faith, hope and charity abide, and the greatest of these is charity

1 Corinthians, 13.13, KJV

I found the King James version to be really interesting. Charity is love in action—behavior-driven, whereas the word love reflects a feeling: such as, I love my family; love is easy.”

(Michelle and I went off on a bit of a tangent about the Greek word in that verse— agape— and why it might have been translated into both love and charity. I learned from The Bible Project that agape was the attempt in the Greek language to explain the concept of divine love: God’s love for us, our love for God, and our love for others as an expression of God’s love. It is characterized by love as service when we actively put the needs of others before our own— just as Michelle said).

“So if I accept the word charity as love-in-action, it reminds me that my behaviors during these troubled times need to reflect care for others.

This can start in my home; am I being charitable with my time? Am I carving out enough time for my daughters?

I love verses that refer to human behavior. They always help me adjust my own choices.”

A CLOSE-READING OF 1 CORINTHIANS 13.13

“So, let’s revisit this verse in terms of the pandemic:

  • Faith: we must believe that God will see us through. We hold fast to that belief.
  • Hope: though the news would convince us that all is hopeless, if we turn back to God, we remember that hope comes from Him.
  • Charity: we actively offer grace and forgiveness to each other. So much division has occurred as a result of our situation: you have the mask-wearers and the mask-protestors who are suddenly mortal enemies. We forget that it is ok to disagree and still be caring towards one another.

I try to remember that we are all feeling stressed, and the pandemic affects each of us differently. In fact, I heard someone say the pandemic has amplified all of our predisposed qualities (ex. an anxious person becomes super anxious, and a person who fights for personal freedoms will fight harder and louder). And every one of us needs grace.”

And every one of us needs grace.

A SECOND VERSE TO WHICH WE SHOULD HOLD FAST

“Another verse that I’ve been using as a lens during the pandemic is Romans 5.3-4

…we rejoice in our sufferings knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope

ESV

The first part of that verse is difficult — find joy in suffering? It goes against our human nature; we try to avoid suffering. But we know suffering is a part of life. And we are all suffering in some way right now.

I learned from previous experiences with depression, that letting oneself feel the hard feelings is healing. So I let myself feel whatever I need to feel during this containment — overwhelmed, frustrated, whatever. I have accepted the feelings of suffering rather than trying to dismiss them.

I reflect on previous struggles and admire the skills and knowledge that came from that period. I notice that God always provided a way out of it. For me, joy comes that way.

As far as endurance goes, this pandemic is not on our timeline. Trying to predict the end or think of how many months we have left doesn’t necessarily help anything; we can’t think of the pandemic in its whole scope, so we just focus on today. Can I get through today? Yes. Can I get through tomorrow? Yes— even if the days are hard.

As we endure this pandemic, we are gaining—as the KJV version calls it—experience, which builds our character in Him, and ultimately we will push through to hope.

The hope often can’t be seen until we’ve cleared some of the suffering away. For me, hope comes out of surviving difficulty. It fuels more hope for future struggles.

Even in the pandemic, there are certainly moments of joy here. When we start counting the ways that we are benefiting from the containment, giving thanks to God for them, it makes us more open to the experience.”

FINAL THOUGHTS

“This pandemic is the first major extended event in a long time in US History that calls for hope and faith.

And so we turn to the one book that can offer such things.”

Michelle’s close-reading of these bible passages is a helpful reminder that scripture is not meant to be rushed through.

Take a verse, break it down. I can hold each part— each word— up to the light like a color slide and examine it in light of my particular circumstances.

In this case, let the words in our favorite passages give us new perspective, new tools, for pandemic burnout.

with His love,

Adelaide

How to Make Photo Coasters using 4×4 Tiles

Father’s Day is half a week away, and rather than doing the last-minute, panic-buy where you shell out way too much money for a lackluster gift, consider making him something meaningful.

I decided to make these photo coasters for my Father-in-law because, like all grandpas, he adores his grandkids— and we are on a tighter budget these days.

You will need six things to make these coasters.

Do you only see five? Crumb. Me, too. I forgot to take a picture of the backing! Have no fear— I will make sure to cover it in a bit.

1: 4×4 tiles

I found a large stack of tiles at my local Habitat for Humanity Restore. If you don’t already know, Restore has secondhand building supplies that have been donated, and all proceeds from the sales of these items support Habitat for Humanity— an excellent cause.

The tiles were 5 cents apiece! You can’t get anything for a nickel anymore…except apparently 4×4 tiles.

Sure, you can get your tiles at Lowe’s or Home Depot, but if you are a thrifter and treasure hunter like me, it’s a lot of fun to dig around at Restore.

If you do. Hey secondhand, don’t worry if your tiles have stains or scratches on the front; the photo will cover almost the entirety of the tile’s face. As long as the edges are good, and there is no mortar stuck to the back, the tile will work!

2. 4×4 square photos

Left: 4×4 photo from Walgreens; Right: Image printed on cardstock at home

I did a little experiment to see if there was a difference between using images printed at home on cardstock versus the glossy 4×4 prints I picked up from my local Walgreens (they were 20 cents a piece).

Both glossy prints and images printed on cardstock will work, but keep in mind that the ordered prints are usually pre-cut with straight edges and the cardstock you will cut yourself. So, unless you have a trusty paper cutter, the edges might be imperfect for the cardstock option.

I liked the deeper saturation of the glossy prints, so I opted for those after comparing them side-by-side.

3. Brush for applying ModPodge

The first step is to apply a generous coat of ModPodge to the tile

If you have a disposable foam brush, I’d use it because Mod Podge is a glue and therefore not always easy to wash out of a standard brush.

4. Speaking of… ModPodge!

ModPodge is a crafter’s bread & butter and comes in many different options: matte, glossy, dishwasher-safe, and on.

As you can see from the above picture, even my three-year old can handle the first step of applying a liberal layer of Mod Podge to the surface of the tile. Mod Podge is non-toxic, so I don’t have to worry about his involvement.

My three-year-old, who needs to clean his fingernails, helps me press the photo onto the tile layered with ModPodge

Once the photo is fixed in place on the ModPodge-coated tile, go ahead and apply the top coat of ModPodge right across the photo itself.

Remember, ModPodge dries clear, so don’t be hesitant to give the photo a good coating and give extra attention to the edges.

The coaster that inspired me! This was made for me by my sister-in-love, Monica, right after my third was born.

Yes, you will see a faint appearance of brush-strokes when it dries, but the evidence of the crafting is what reflects the love that went into making it. You won’t find these coming out of a factory.

The evidence of the crafting reflects the love that went into making it

5. Acrylic sealing spray

Now to really help the coasters stand up to the moisture of an icy drink cup, you’ll need to spray an acrylic sealer over the dried ModPodge layer.

Acrylic Spray Sealers are not non-toxic, so be sure to do this project outdoors and keep the kids at a distance.

Here, I am spraying the first of two thin coats of the acrylic sealer

The acrylic sealing spray I chose has a glossy finish, but you can also find other brands in a matte finish.

Once you’ve let the second thin coat dry, the front of your coaster is complete, and you only need to add the backing.

6. Cork backing or felt bumpers

Because raw porcelain tile will not be kind to a wooden table, you’ll need either:

CORK SQUARES

Here is the large pack I ordered from Amazon in the hopes of making more coasters in the future:

They peel easily

And adhere with a press

If you want to make a smaller batch of coasters, you might want to opt for…

FELT BUMPER DOTS

Felt dots like these can also be found at Target and WalMart near the furniture section. You will need four dots per coaster— one for each corner.

Project complete!

My coasters are ready to wrap up for Dad! He loves Diet Coke, so I might also include some Diet Coke and have the kids write a little cheeky note on the gift box asking where he will put his Diet Coke cup.

So tell me, what is the best handmade gift you have ever received?

with His love,

Adelaide

10 Things that Make Me Happy

I was tagged by my new friend, Barb, from My Life in our Father’s World, to share 10 things that make me happy. Here they are in no particular order:

1. Crepe Myrtle Blossoms in Hot July

My husband snapped this photo a few days ago

It’s always a little melancholy to see a green, lush spring front yard die with the summer heat. But every late June/early July, our crepe myrtle trees come alive with these pink blossoms. It’s one of my favorite places to pray.

2. Community rock projects

The boys and I added three painted rocks to the community rock garden

Whether it is the hide-and-find community game or a rock garden like the one pictured above, the boys and I had fun painting and delivering rocks. It’s something to do when so many places are closed to the public.

3. Meeting Christian Women through this platform

Here is the thank-you picture Rheanne Loren (pictured right) sent me after winning the giveaway T-shirts. I’ve linked her YouTube channel here.

We all know social media has its drawbacks, but one of my favorite perks is that I am able to meet other Christian women from around the nation (or globe!) who are in different walks of life from me. Kindness can still be felt through our screens, and connection can still be made.

4. Coffee with my cousin

The first Sips & Scripts featured my cousin, Kim, who has been the blog’s biggest supporter from the first day it launched. She and I have gotten into the habit of letting the five kids run around my house while we enjoy an iced coffee together. These visits are recharging for the mamas and the kiddos alike.

5. Hair scarves

I don’t seem to have a good picture of me with a hair scarf, so I pulled these from my stories. Ever since containment started, I’ve quit straightening my hair so much and let it air dry; the curls have really sprung up. I like tying a hair scarf with my updo for summer.

6. Story time with Papa

My parents live in Florida, and my brother and his family live in Georgia— it’s rough having them so far away. My dad (the boys’ Papa) has been reading to his grandkids from Treasure Island twice a week. It’s nice to hear his voice and see the sweet faces of my niece and nephew. And yes, Papa is wearing a pirate bandana.

7. My Supportive Work Environment

Our message to the college’s graduating students

I am an educator who spent many years in the college classroom teaching rhetoric and composition; but since having my last son, I have opted for a different role with less of a demand on my time. I work with a team of five other coordinators who run a support service for the college. We get to work alongside incredible college students, and our center has fostered a wonderful culture of support and encouragement. I love being a part of it.

8. Swimming with family

My brother-in-law tossing my oldest son

Anyone who knows me knows that fall has been my favorite season even since I was young. But I must say, having kids has really made summer move up on my list. The long evenings, grandma’s homemade vanilla ice cream, and the squeals of my kids as they play in the pool have given me new appreciation for what is our most difficult season in terms of weather (we exceed 110 degrees each summer and sometimes 115). My husband loves being in the water, and we are excited for our above-ground pool to be installed next week!

9. The Pup with the Cookies ‘N Cream Paws

Lucy Ruth, our sweet Aussie/Border Collie mix
I snapped this one right as my middle son was getting puppy kisses

I pulled into our cul-de-sac one afternoon as I was driving my oldest son home from a birthday party, and there in the driveway was a tiny black pup, whose head entirely covered by the baseball cap my middle son had just put on her. She had been brought home without my knowledge. I spent a whole two minutes being exasperated with my husband, but once she was in my arms, it was over. She’s been a part of the family ever since. She does well with our 12-year-old dog, Lady, who has slowed down quite a bit this year. But she truly delights in having young boys to play with—she found the right home.

10. Morning snuggles with my youngest

My last-born is my calmest child in terms of energy. While the other two pop off the pillow more quickly, this one takes his time waking up and is content being held for 20…30 minutes when he wakes up. Since I don’t have to rush out the door to work anymore, I can to indulge him (and me, let’s be frank) in long morning snuggles. He will never be this little again. I take it all in, letting my hands and my heart make carbon copies of his tiny-ness and his sweetness.


It would be a great failure on my part to accept this happiness without offering thanks to the source. God, every one of these things has come from your hand, and I am so grateful.

with His love,

Adelaide

PS. I tag these new friends to post about 10 things:

Sarah Butterfield

Kim Mulvaney

Nicole Williams