Mind Your Own Bowl

Welcome to 31 Conversations From the Front Porch Day 9. You can find the rest of the series here.

31 conversations from the front porch with jkmcguire

Day 9: Mind Your Own Bowl

“The only time you should look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough.

You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if you have as much as them.” (Louis C.K.)

Here’s that conversation about the bowl I keep mentioning.

My brother and I do not have a competitive relationship. He is three years younger. He was good at different things. I never felt threatened by his presence or like I needed to compete for our parents’ affections or attention.We were completely aware that he was grandma’s favorite. And I was the firstborn. We each had our places. Because our family took in foster children from when we were still in elementary school until we were grown – it often felt as though we were a team against all the crazies. We needed to have each others backs.

Fast forward to the present – he has a wife and kids; I have a husband and kids. We have both been in situations where we were moments from taking our last breath. I have learned – that even though our family is NOT perfect – I experience great joy in my spirit knowing that he and his wife and their children are out there in the world somewhere.

I love the family we are becoming in all our mess and glory. It is beautiful.

It gives me great happiness knowing that he is alive, that he has found a woman to love, and that they are a family becoming with three beautiful girls. I am grateful he gets the opportunity to experience the fullness of life.

I don’t have a heart of competition or jealousy towards him or others when I am fixated on praying joy, happiness, health, and love over his/their life/lives.

I want us all to make it.

mind your own bowl louis ck quote jkmcguire

Here’s the thing – if I was concerned about what was in his bowl and how that measured to my bowl – then I might fixate more on what he has and what he does and what that all looks like in comparison to my life.

Frankly, our parents raised us better than that – they taught us to see the need and help to fill the bowls that we find empty.

Even the bowls of the crazies. MOST especially the bowls of the crazies.

So I am trying to teach our children that too – as I scoop the ice cream and they lean over to look at what the sibling sitting beside them has been given.

My new house mantra is, “Mind your own bowl.”

And I pray I am brave enough to remember that truth any time I feel tempted to peek at someone’s excess or lack, failure or stumblings, or success and compare it to my own.

mind your own bowl circle jkmguire

Exercises For Your Own Front Porch Conversations

Thoughts: There is a competitiveness that is healthy, team-centered and character building; There is also a competitiveness that leads to jealousy and strife, envy, comparison, and harm. Comparison can infiltrate our lives and families when we are not paying attention and when we least expect it. It settles in among us and at first we recognize it only as sibling spats and squabbles, praising a child for their gifts, but it can quickly run down hill into using shame, pitting one child against another, using comparison as a tool to get a child to cooperate and more.

  • So that praise becomes comparing one child’s abilities to another…. if you just tried as hard as your sister, or look at how she does it.
  • Correcting harmful behavior becomes using shame instead of constructive criticism filled with HOPE.
  • Teasing and agitating becomes targeting and pitting and smearing one another for sport.

It doesn’t take much for competitive yuck to infiltrate a home. Hubby and I have to be very diligent with all these kids we have been given to make sure we are continually redirecting them towards hope, love, compassion, and family goals. It is difficult. But I refuse to raise kids who grow up thinking comparison is helpful or healthy.

I know that if we want to raise kids who are good at healthy competition (who are good at winning well and losing well) they have to be raised in a home where healthy competition is modeled.

If I want my kids to NOT suffer from the jealous, envy monsters then I have to be diligent about the jealous, envy monsters that might try to spring up in my own life.

I model what I want them to be – if I am a competitive mess then chances are they will be unhealthy, competitive monsters too even with one another.

If I compare them – I lose them. If I pit them against each other – I lose them. If I encourage tattling – I lose them. If I mock one and uphold the other – I lose them. And they lose each other.


  • How did your parents model competition?
  • Did you participate in sports? How did that help or hinder you?
  • Did/do you feel competitive with your siblings? Does that seem healthy or does it feel chaotic?
  • What kind of relationship do you have with your siblings now?
  • How does that inform HOW you are raising your own kids?
  • Brene Brown says we can not demonstrate for our kids what we have not done… how can you defeat the competitiveness in your own life?
  • When you look at others do you feel envy?
  • What about other people’s lives makes you jealous? What they have? How they look? What they do? Gifts? Abilities? Life?
  • It is hard to get over comparison as a weapon – joy thief in your life – when you do not realize you do this. Is comparison something you find yourself doing?
  • What are some was you can eliminate jealousy from your heart?

“Comparison is the thief of Joy.” -Theodore Roosevelt

comparison is the thief of joy roosevelt

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