Appearances can deceive us. I learned this from a duck.
Last week my family took a bike ride along the lake bordering our hometown. Winds were high, so the water was choppy, rocking every fishing boat and dinghy brave enough to navigate the white caps rushing toward shore. Just a few yards from our bikes swam a family of ducks, calm as could be.
Ducks are a common sight in Wisconsin. They dwell in our lakes, rivers and forests. They waddle across our streets and quack in flock formations overhead. They even show up on our front lawns on rare occasions, no doubt looking for something to eat.
I’ve seen ducks before. But then again, it dawned on me—I’ve never really seen ducks before. Not truly.
Because while I stood admiring their serenity, their stillness on the current—as if life in the duck hood was no-problemo against those surging waves—I suddenly caught a vision. Above the surface we see happy-chill birds floating merrily along, but just inches underwater those ducks were paddling for dear life. Their little webbed feet must’ve been working furiously to keep their bodies from drifting out to sea.
Poor things. They struggle beneath the surface. And we can’t see any of it.
I think that’s how it is with people, too.
That mom at summer school who appears to have it all together. She drives a Lexus and washes her hair and shows up fresh and shiny at 8 o’clock drop-off. On the surface she looks flawless. But we are blind to her struggles beneath—what she endures to stay anchored.
Those friends on Instagram and Facebook who post photos of their luxurious vacations and their frequent dinners out. Hey, good for them—if I could afford the vacations, I’d take them, too. But who knows what else goes on behind the photos. What challenges and heartache do these picture-perfect people face? Chances are you won’t hear about that side of their stories on Facebook.
We are so prone to comparing ourselves to others. What they have, how they live, what they look like above water. But nobody is problem-free. We all paddle beneath the surface to some degree, struggling to stay afloat.
Jealousy and judgment are the byproducts of poor vision. When we open our eyes to consider the full picture of another person’s life—whether proven or presumed—we can readily respond with compassion, which breeds genuine relationship.
So let’s stop seeing people as top-half ducks and instead reach out to know them as human beings. We are all flawed and vulnerable, yes. But God loves His flock—whether sheep or ducks or people otherwise known as busy, tired women like you and me. And equipped with His strength, we can remind each other we’re not alone, and overcome any struggle.
All this I learned from a duck. It’s amazing what God can teach us when we’re willing to look beyond the surface. Will you try it with me?
“Ears to hear and eyes to see—both are gifts from the Lord.” (Proverbs 20:12)
What to Read Next: The Best Way to Face an Unexpected Problem