Don’t compare your messy backstage to someone’s presentable front stage

Things behind the scene are invisible to others. That’s the backstage. The ready-to-go portion shown to the world is the only part others see. That’s the front stage.

The ol’ sage advice is don’t compare your backstage to the front stage you see of others.

(This article is cross-posted from my other blog, Nonprofit Update, because it is helpful to sort out the appearances of what is happening around us.)

This applies in so many areas.

You know how your children behave at home or on a long vacation or how much effort it takes to get homework done. What you see in other families is the on-your-best-behavior public face and the brag-ready list of accomplishments that were oh so easy to achieve.

Compare the backstage of your family to someone else’s front stage as if that was actually a valid comparison and you will be distressed with either your children or your parenting skills. The most likely outcome is wondering why you are a failure as a parent.

Jeff Walker has a great video about that idea. He uses a messily hand-tailored shirt as a great contrast of the slick front stage and the messy, sloppy, slap-dash back stage.

Check this out:



Literally the difference between a super-sharp front of the shirt and a messily pinned together back of the same shirt.

His illustration is that the front stage in theater is a wonderful show while the backstage is

barely contained chaos.

Where else does this apply?

Compare the messiness of running your business to the public face of your competitor and you will want to close the doors and start over.

Compare the staffing conflicts, infrastructure struggles, and financial pressure in your ministry to the slick PR of other NPOs and you will ponder whether you should give up your dream of changing the world.

Compare your messy, complicated, distressing personal life to the carefully crafted Facebook or LinkedIn page of others and you will think you are the only person around with challenges. I assure that isn’t the case. The most well crafted front stage of that prima dona in your world likely hides an unmitigated disaster in the person’s life.

As an auditor, I’ve occasionally seen the difference between the everything-is-wonderful front stage and the messy, complicated backstage. Sometimes that backstage is ugly.  As a leader in a local church, I’ve been privileged to be invited into people’s lives, which has taught me that the everything-is-perfect front stage sometimes is accompanied by a pain-filled, sin-raddled backstage.

Keep in mind someone else’s backstage is probably just as messy as yours.

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