In America, we have a common saying: “The grass is greener on the other side.” This myth rubs against the encouragement to bloom where you’re planted and is the justification thousands have used to pursue new ministries, careers, and new relationships. You’ll even see the most discontent use this excuse to explore new religions and new marriages.
American discontentment is summarized well by Theodore Roosevelt, who said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” When we buy into the myth that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, we risk allowing envy to rule our thoughts and choices. Envy doesn’t allow us to think clearly. We can lose sight of the good right in front of us. We may even convince ourselves that the opportunity in front of us is worthless or a waste of time to continue to put effort into when, in fact, it’s amazing. Jennifer Kunst, Ph.D., says, “We risk losing focus, self-confidence, and hope.”
Comparison is one of the most crippling hurdles for ministries and nonprofits because the further an organization sways from its mission statement, the more confused donors will be. This can impede future donations if trust is broken. Rather than spending time trying to figure out what every other ministry is doing, we would serve our mission and our donors by metaphorically watering the grass where God has planted.
In Atlas of the Heart, Brene Brown shares that a scientist explained that because of the physics of how grass grows when we peer over our fence at our neighbor’s grass, it actually does look greener, even if it is the same grass as we are standing in. Brene writes,
“As someone who can fall prey to comparing myself and my life to edited and curated Instagram feeds, I laughed so hard when he told me that due to the physics of how grass grows, when we peer over our fence at our neighbor’s grass, it actually does look greener, even if it is truly the same lushness as our own grass. I mean, does it get better than that? The grass actually does look greener on the other side,”– Brené Brown, Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience
Why Are We Attracted to Green Grass Anyway?
If chasing the “grass is greener myth” is so destructive, why are we so attracted to green grass anyway? Well, it turns out that when the grass is green, it communicates several things:
Scientifically Green Grass is Healthy
Any green part of a plant is filled with chlorophyll. Grass thrives with water, soil, sun, and nutrients. Chlorophyll is essential for the life of plants as it absorbs energy from the sun. Each healthy cell with active chlorophyll acts as a solar panel. It absorbs the energy from the sun and turns that into fuel for the plant. Green grass is healthy grass.
Psychologically Green Grass is Calming
Psychologists tell us that different colors elicit different emotional responses. For most people, the color green symbolizes nature and tranquility. “Shades of green in nature can help put us at ease in a new place. For this reason, designers often feature green in public spaces like restaurants and hotels.” For the same reasons, green is associated with feelings of optimism and stress relief.
Green Grass Reflects Success
“To have a well maintained lawn is a sign to others that you have the time and/or the money to support this attraction.” The Scientific American Lawns are so ingrained in American society as part of neighborhoods; they’re viewed as an indicator of socio-economic character, which translates into higher property- and resale values. Healthy lawns indicate success; green grass is a physical manifestation of the American Dream of homeownership. Think about how many times homeowner association fees include lawn maintenance.
Water Your Grass and Create a Healthy Space Where You’re Planted
When we begin the journey of clarifying our calling, we may discover it isn’t easy to discern between our sweet spot and someone else’s journey if we spend too much time comparing ourselves to everyone else. Brene Brown writes,
“Many good opportunities are ruined for the dream of slightly better ones. Would you have a more successful career if you had taken that other job or moved cities? Possibly. But your actual career will definitely suffer if you don’t commit to doing it to the best of your ability.
Would you be 10% happier in a different relationship? Maybe. Maybe not. But you’ll definitely be unhappy in the one you have if you spend all day thinking about what else is out there.
The surefire way to end up worse off is to agonize over unchosen options and fail to make the most of the one you selected. Every minute spent yearning for your unlived lives is a moment you can’t invest in the one you actually have. Choices matter, but so does your level of commitment.“– Brené Brown, Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience
So how do we know when to stay and when to go? When is the opportunity on the other side of the fence the right one? Well, that takes discernment. It’s usually best not to make big decisions in a vacuum. Seek out a mentor and take your time considering both opportunities.
Are you Thriving in the Fullness of Your Calling?
Whether you’re a coach’s wife, the wife of a professional athlete, a pastor’s wife, the wife of a CEO, a military wife, or a college administrator’s wife, you have unique challenges to navigate that differ from the struggles of other women.
This Book Will Help You:
- Engage 7 steps to clarify your calling, identify your sweet spot, and implement strategies that will enable you to live on mission.
- Identify how the 5 Stages of Burnout can impact your marriage and your ability to fully embrace your calling.
- Tackle the unique hurdles of parenting in the public eye.
- Learn practical tips for getting through the harder parts of the calendar year.