I got a call yesterday from a dear friend who speaks to youth workers around the country. As we were talking he shared all the success he is having traveling, speaking, engaging with students, and helping youth workers understand how to communicate to this generation. When he was celebrating, in the back of my mind I thought, “WOW, I should be speaking there.” And in an instant I drifted off to a place of selfishness instead of being able to listen intently and revel in the success of my friend.
After our conversation was over, I got on my plane and sat ALONE. All of the sudden this deep guilty regret came over me. Who am I? Why wouldn’t I just naturally be excited for my friend’s success? I’m excited when I talk to business owners who grow their business. I’m excited for academic friends who get tenure or publish another book. Why wasn’t I able to simply enjoy the success of another?
So after all the guilt and shame self-pity party, I wrote a few thins down about what it really means to live in the BIG world of community where togetherness and unity takes precedence instead of whatever that self loathing stuff is. (I’m assuming there are more than just me dealing with this.)
Rejoice with Those Who Rejoice
One of the tenants of my faith journey is to “Rejoice with those who Rejoice and Mourn with Those Who Mourn.” (Romans 12:15) I say I believe it, but under the microscope of reality, do I really believe what I say? When someone gets a new car, and the excitement of something new reigns in the heart of another, am I really excited with them? Or, would I smile politely and tell them how awesome it is for their success while scowling under my breath I want t new car.
Or what about someone who gets promoted to a new job? Are we more likely to be excited that our friends are finding success at work, or do you (like me) think in the back of our minds, Why didn’t the boss see me?
If I’m honest, I struggle with this one. And I’m finding more and more people who are living in the same camp, so to speak.
The old adage Happiness is in the palm of your hand is true. You hold the key to happiness with another person when you train your mind to honestly be filled with a spirit of rejoicing as someone else finds success in whatever area they find success in. The wedge of bitterness begins when we start looking inwardly to our own selfish desires instead of truly looking to another and being full with prideful celebration for someone else.
I want my life to be known as someone who truly can walk with another in this world and be super excited for them. For example, my wife is finding super success in her new business, and I truly, honestly, couldn’t be more excited for her. She is finding a new-found confidence in her role in the family, and every time she reaches a new milestone, my heart leaps with honest joy.
I want that behavior to transcend to people who are in my sphere of influence. Not caring about who wins or looses, but I want to instead frame my relationships based on the success of another. I believe that’s how true community can begin to be formed.
The Us vs. Them Narrative
Look I get it. Football in America is the most popular sport today. Millions tune into Saturdays watching their favorite NCAA college football teams take the filed and hopefully destroy the other. There are winners and losers in sport, but are there really winners and losers in life? Maybe we’ve allowed our competitive nature on the football field bleed into the way we see others in our own environments. We have those who wear blue shirts and those who wear red shirts, and somewhere we think there’s actually going to be a winner and a looser. You might frame the winner as the one with the most money, or maybe the one who has the most stuff. Maybe you would frame winners as those who are smart, and those who are intellectually challenged. Or maybe we even reduce this conversation down to who has the right answers and those who have the wrong ones.
I find, when I’m in this state of mind it hampers my ability to truly connect with others. Like the famous Will Ferrell said in the NASCAR spoof movie Talladega Nights “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
We’re all in this human thing together. We’re all trying to find the right answers to life’s hardest questions. We’re all trying to make it day by day, and when every day is framed inside a narrative of I’m going to beat someone today We miss the joy filled opportunity to actually celebrate and be joyful. The sense of worthiness creeps in and we begin to wonder, Am I really worth anything to anybody? And that’s never a good space to live in.
Think of Others More Highly than Yourself
Another tenet to my faith journey is to actually think of someone else more than myself. Some days it’s my wife. Some days it’s my kids. Those are easy. But I would like to be known as someone willing to put someone else’s needs above my own.
Last weekend I had the sacred honored privilege of inviting my college buddies to Colorado to have a good old fashion Men’s Retreat. I was SUPER FULL OF JOY as guys shared their journey’s of success. And, my heart honestly ached when I heard of the pain some were going through.
Today, I’m choosing to be Full of Joy for my ministry friend. No clouds of jealousy. No heart of discontent. I’m excited where life is leading him, and I want to say that publicly. I can’t wait to see what’s around the corner for him in this crazy journey called life.
Who are you going to celebrate today?