Faith Talk: "I'll have what she's having"

Faith Talk: "I'll have what she's having"

"The mark of good friendship isn't that one feels no pain or unpleasant emotion: we simply can't control everything we feel no matter how hard we try. Rather, it is that we don't allow these emotions to enter the realm of deeds and consume a relationship entirely... Where longing becomes a feeling of envy, someone is transformed from a friend into a rival who possesses a good for which there is competition. At the same time, success demands of someone that they should always be humble. A good friend doesn't belittle their mate or rub salt into the wound of is the mark of maturity that we are able to put aside our own vanities and anxieties and celebrate the accomplishments of those we call our friends."
'We should not let our anxieties kill friendship' by Tim Southphommasane, 'Ask the Philosopher', The Weekend Australian.  

I spent the weekend in close proximity to the three good friends with whom I shared a room, so my mind is geared this week for thinking about how we relate, motivate and celebrate each other while circumnavigating inevitable feelings of inadequacy, particularly when our defenses are down, while using those feelings to shape our own existence in more positive ways (i.e. if I can't have what she's having, what can I bring to the table?). 

From where I sit, there are three prevailing, contradictory ideas in pop culture right now: the sobering, "There will always be someone smarter, prettier and funnier than you, so stop trying", the more affirming, "There is no one quite like you, so work with what you have and count your blessings", and the worrisome, "You can attain what he/she has if you just buy this or that or prescribe to this diet or get this job or qualification". In the most extreme cases (see Single White Female), rivalry and 'frenvy' can turn seriously ugly, but mostly it plays out in bitchiness or passive aggressive bullying.    

Seeing your comparative deficit for what it is and learning to curb it is one of the hallmarks of Christianity in practise, as the manifestations of envy in our behaviour towards others is in opposition to the tenet of loving your neighbour. But more than that, it also shows a lack of respect for God, our creator, who we are commanded to love with all our hearts, souls and minds.

Giving into the sin of envy robs you of the peace you gain when you make the decision to 'give up your own life for His' and walk His way through life (i.e. with respect for the laws laid out for righteous living in the Bible). Jealousy and desire for another person's life/circumstances/occupation/figure/wardrobe/children/husband will only lead to trouble.

"For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice," wrote James (3:14, 16); "If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all," urged Paul in Romans 12:14, 17-18; "Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man's envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind," wrote the philosopher in Ecclesiastes (4:4).

Wishing ill on our fellow man or woman, or revelling in any unfortunate circumstance they might find themselves in, corrodes the spirit and distances us from God. On the other hand, an affirming or encouraging word is succor for the soul. "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones" (Proverbs 16:24).

As I journey on through life, it's quite clear that living outside of God's perfect will – in our interactions with him and with others, as well as the application of our service to him and the use of our blessings – is the quick road to feelings of guilt and condemnation. Working out one's salvation is a daily process requiring first the commitment to lay down your life and pick up the cross. 

I felt pangs of this last Monday – however we may justify the outworking of our thoughts and actions (it was a joke, it's politics!), if the resounding message in others' eyes is one of inflammatory vilification of a fellow being, with disregard for their emotional health, situation, character or office, then we've let ourselves down as much as the person at whom our attention is aimed.

Life is challenging for all of us, and our ability to rise above dire situations with integrity in tact or be gracious in the company of defeat, disappointment or disapproval speaks volumes about our character and moral foundations. NSW Premier Kristina Keneally may be a politician, but as her former (mostly male) colleagues jump the Labor ship, she's been left to pick up the pieces on the campaign trail – the culmination of 16 years of Labor leadership in the state – and she's done it with integrity and grace and passion (notably Bob Carr jumped as soon as things started to go pear-shaped).

"I admire [opposition leader] Mr O'Farrell's commitment to his own principles," she told The Sunday Telegraph. "He is a leader. But do I worry about him having a blank cheque? Absolutely...What I worry about is that we know very little about what Barry would do if he were premier... The Australian Labor Party is not a given. You can't just assume it will always exist. It exists because its members put its principles and values ahead of themselves as individuals...It will be up to the people on the 26th of March about what happens next, but that's what I've got to do every single day."

Classy stuff.

How quickly God humbles us in return when we slip up (oh, yep, He does), and how easy that is when you publish a daily blog. Thank God for grace in repentance as we strive to make amends by concerning ourselves more with the welfare of others than pointing to their shortcomings and failures, whether they be friends, 'frenemies', celebrities, politicians or strangers.

"Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest," said Jesus. "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

When your own burden has been lightened, it's more likely you'll be less of a burden, more of a blessing, to others, too. We live, we learn.

Girl With a Satchel