By Daniel Im
“May the odds be ever in your favor!” Recognize the quote? It’s from The Hunger Games.
After watching the first movie, I bought the trilogy of books and devoured them over Christmas vacation. I typically stick to non-fiction, but for some reason, I couldn’t put these books down.
I found myself absorbed in The Hunger Games because it was a classic Cinderella story.
When Katniss Everdeen volunteers herself to be the tribute—AKA the annual sacrifice—in place of her sister, Prim, there’s a collective gasp, because to their district, “the word tribute is pretty much synonymous with the word corpse.”
In the past 74 years, only two victors had ever emerged from their district. So if the past is the best predictor for the future, Katniss only has a 3% chance of winning—not very favorable odds when the alternative is death.
Can you see why the phrase “May the odds be ever in your favor” is so ironic? Especially when spoken to Katniss and her district, which never wins? It’s not fair.
It’s not fair that kids have to fight to their death while the Capitol watches the Games as entertainment like a reality TV show.
And it’s not fair that though the Capitol is rich in resources, they only share resources with the winning district each year. It’s just not fair.
And here’s the thing, the lie that we are what we experience isn’t fair either.
The problem with this lie
It isn’t fair because the odds are stacked against us. While it’s great that social media gives us the opportunity to stay connected with our friends and family, our perception of reality gets distorted the longer we spend on it.
For example, when’s the last time you were scrolling through social media and noticed your best friend on vacation at the beach, a picture of a delicious meal from a coworker on a business trip, and your friend’s new kitchen remodel, while you’re sitting on your sunken in couch, eating leftovers, and watching re-runs of Fixer Upper?
It’s impossible not to compare!
Sure, you can like their photos and try to be happy for them, but when you only see their Instagram worthy photos and not everything else that’s going on behind-the-scenes for them—like the credit card debt used to finance that vacation and new kitchen, or the fact that your coworker is eating by himself at a restaurant while his family is thousands of miles away at home—it’s impossible not to fall into the trap of comparison.
Our perception of their reality is distorted, since we only see the good times they’re experiencing.
After all, who takes a photo of their past-due bills? Of their children fighting? Of their stained carpet and scratched up coffee table? Or, even better, of their picturesque laminate countertop, without a backsplash?
No, God forbid that we post such things! It’d be too real and authentic.
This is how our perception of reality gets distorted, and why it’s so easy to believe this lie. We’re living in a constant state of comparison—not out of conscious choice, it’s just a part of the air we’re breathing.
And what happens after you finally go on vacation and post a picture of that airplane wing, or that picturesque sunset? Are you satisfied? Or do you just want more?
Unfortunately, comparison only begets more comparison. Someone will always one-up you.
Even if you had a better experience than others, how would you feel if they got more likes on social media? Or went on more experiences than you?
And that’s only half of it, since it’s how you feel about them! How do you think they feel about you and your experiences?
Comparison is a zero-sum game. And underneath it all, there is no end to this lie. There is always more comparison.
Instead of quenching the flames of jealousy and envy in our hearts, experiences end up fanning them. Because once the experience is over, it’s over.
Sure, you can buy a souvenir or make a scrapbook to commemorate that experience, but that’ll only last so long until you want another experience, another high.
We see this with King Solomon who wrote that jealousy is the very thing that drives our grinding, hustling, striving, and working.
And after building his life on this shaky foundation and getting to the top—having experienced everything that there is to experience—he responded with these words:
All things are wearisome, more than anyone can say. The eye is not satisfied by seeing or the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.
Can one say about anything, ‘Look, this is new’? It has already existed in the ages before us.
There is no remembrance of those who came before; and of those who will come after there will also be no remembrance by those who follow them.
Experiences are temporary, and a life driven to get more, do more, and have more experiences will only lead you further down a path that you might already be familiar with—a life filled with jealousy and envy.
DANIEL IM (@danielsangi) is a pastor at Beulah Alliance Church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and is a podcaster. He’s the author of several books, including You Are What You Do: And Six Other Lies About Work, Life & Love, from which this is adapted and used by permission from B&H Publishing Group.