Jealousy, fear, and self-interest can get in the way of our celebrating the good fortune of someone close to us. Jealousy comes from the fear of losing something—someone is moving on without us or doesn’t care about us. Fear arrives with the unknown—what is going to happen once the person close to us moves up the ladder or marries or moves away. Often it is our own self-interest that we turn to when we hear news about change—what does this mean for me? However, if we truly love and care for one another the first response should be that of joy and celebration.
I have seen jealousy rear its ugly head in the work place when a colleague is promoted and the snarky remarks about how he or she got there begin. I have seen relationships falter when someone retires and their lifestyle changes. Or when one moves into a new neighborhood and there is now a physical distance between friends. I have even seen cut-throat politics in the church when someone is leading a program or ministry and someone else thinks they could do it better. There is another side though—the side when I saw people I mentored succeed and it was exciting to witness their growth. I have seen people move into new homes and others surround them with welcome gifts and house blessings. I have seen new programs flourish because others ask what they can do to make it happen—and then serve their friend to make it so.
We have two paths ahead—to support the success of another or to passively (or openly) do all we can to undermine their success. If we desire to outdo one another, then let be in the way we celebrate each other’s success and blessings, wishing them well as they go.
My church is in the midst of yet another change. We moved out of a building that was the foundation for many of our outreach and community activities. We left behind many of the resources we had built up over the years. In the process, we also lost a number of members who, for whatever reasons, no longer wanted to worship with us. And then our rector/pastor of many years stepped down. This big change also caused some members to leave. And now, our beloved associate rector has announced he will be moving. Just when we were getting comfortable, change is happening. This is a great opportunity for him and one to be celebrated. It is difficult however, when uncertainty has raised its head again and for many the first thought was what this meant for them, their ministries, and their families. I keep hearing “excited but sad.”
The Apostle Paul wrote about such things in his letters to the Philippians. He told the faithful there to put their love of Christ first, to trust in God’s plan, and to love each other—supporting one another through all things. He writes that we should think not so much about ourselves but to be genuinely interested in others. I understand that to mean that we should have a Christ-like attitude that wants the best for those around us. This means that we set aside the things that impact our lives and focus on the changes occurring to others. And it means we are excited for them when these good things happen.
Let’s be excited about the future and less sad about what is changing.
Setting our focus on others means we wish the best for them. We congratulate them and we pray for them as they go through their personal change. It means we do what we can to help make their transition smoother. We remember that as they go through their change, they too are losing something. They too are stepping into something new and unknown. They need our encouragement and support, not our fear and self-absorption. Once we shift our focus, I believe everything becomes clearer. We will begin to trust God’s plan and see his love for those moving as well as for those staying. If we embrace the changes in our lives we will soon see that we fit well in God’s plan. We will see the opportunity for all parties concerned and find joy in that. We will move forward without regret and in celebration of what God is doing for all of us.