I came across a tweet the other day that blew my mind. Not because of the tweet itself, but because of the discussion that came after it. The tweet went something like this: “I’m really tired of all the negative stereotypes about women being shopaholics.” Short, simple, pretty non-confrontational. She was simply making a statement about our current culture. It’s kind of hard to deny that there are stereotypes about women being irresponsible with their finances, and I can completely understand how a woman, especially one who writes a personal finance blog, might face some friction with it. And then I broke that highest rule of staying sane on the internet: I read the comments.
Not all, but most of the replies to this tweet voiced strong agreements with the sentiment, but they twisted the meaning a little bit. Since it clearly wasn’t enough to just agree that the stereotype was frustrating, these replies made it plainly obvious that men were actually the more irresponsible sex when it comes to money. “I know tons of men that spend way more than I do at the mall!” “My husband and I have tried to teach our children better, but our sons go crazy at the shoe stores!” “Some men have much bigger closets than I do!”
Just like that, I’d gone from cheering the author of the tweet on and getting ready to voice my own support to feeling guilty for… being a man, I guess? Do they know that I’ve spent less than $50 on myself since last September, not counting food? What did I do to deserve being thrown under the bus like that? And while I don’t know for sure, I have a feeling these commenters may have had the same effect on other male audience members; not a single reply was from a man.
It very much could have been the other way around. For example, I’m getting frustrated with all of the TV commercials and sitcoms that depict husbands and fathers as nothing but bumbling, lazy idiots who only serve as comedy points that could be written out of the scene without any effect. But I don’t think the proper way to counter that is by saying, “Don’t people know how many women sit around the house all day while men go work several jobs?” No, the proper way to counter it is by not being a bumbling, lazy idiot as a husband, and one day, as a father. What another person does or doesn’t do should have no bearing on my behavior as an individual. Putting someone else who makes poor choices in the spotlight doesn’t justify my own poor choices. My account before God is my own. I don’t get to stand on Judgment Day and say “Well, I wasn’t as bad as that guy.”
It seems like other people are the litmus test for how we get to act. But do you know why everyone is so mad in our culture all the time? Because comparison is the thief of joy. It’s not enough that we have jobs that pay for our meals, our clothes, and our houses, we have to make as much or more than everyone else. It’s not enough to have cars that get us where we want to go, we need to make people jealous of our temp tags and new car smell. It’s not enough to live modestly enough that we have money set aside for future goals and retirement, we have to be so frugal that everyone else is wasteful by our standards. It’s not enough to stand up and care for the weak ones within our sphere of influence, we have to go so far as to be offended on behalf of others who obviously don’t know they’re being oppressed. It’s not enough to just live our lives, we have to always be better than everyone at everything.
What if our knee-jerk reaction when we saw criticism wasn’t to point the finger at someone else, but to examine ourselves to see if the criticism was valid? What if we paused long enough to take the log out of our own eye before we attempt to remove the speck from our brother’s? What if we quit making every single topic of discussion an “us vs. them” battle? My success doesn’t automatically come at the expense of yours. Let’s build each other up in our conversations instead of tearing each other down.