Sadie takes Orso just the way he is.
I was sitting with my aunt's church group the other day and talk turned to a certain church member, Lauren, whose life was apparently perfect. It seems she has four grown daughters, all of whom have successful, well-paying careers, and more than that, they all "married well"; i.e., they married husbands who also have successful, well-paying careers. Lauren herself is a well-off retiree and so the upshot of it is that she and her husband are leading very comfortable lives, regularly posting pictures on Facebook of the family on holiday, eating at expensive restaurants, and wearing expensive things.
"Wow, great huh?" my aunt said. "Lauren and her husband don't have to worry about anything; her daughters are doing so well". There was a chorus of agreement. And then, she added what was clearly in everyone else's mind: "You can't help but envy
I was silent the entire time, but at that, I felt I simply had to speak up. It wasn't just that I'd heard that kind of senseless dross before, but I felt so bad for my cousin (my aunt's daughter), who was also there, and flashed me a stricken, exasperated look. Because obviously, if you envy someone else's life, you're clearly dissatisfied with your own; and if you think someone's else's children are successful and have married well, you clearly think your own aren't, and haven't.
"Why do you say these things?" I said. "Success isn't defined by wealth. And you don't know what their private lives are like, or what's going to happen to any of them in the future. Why can't you just be happy with what you have?" Now my cousin isn't a highfalutin career woman, but a full-time mom with two wonderfully decent teenage sons. But heck, when was the last time you heard someone going, "Gee, she's a full-time stay-at-home mom raising kids -- you can't help but envy her"?
Needless to say, the conversation swiftly went off on a pointless tangent, with my aunt going, "I didn't say Constance didn't marry well" and me going, "But you just said you envied Lauren's daughters' marrying well", and my aunt retorting, "Well, they did -- they're doing great; they lead such comfortable lives", and me replying, "Which means you don't think you're doing great!"
Of course, I don't think my aunt had really given much thought to what she was saying. And many of us are guilty of much the same thing, looking longingly at someone else's whatever, and at the very least thinking, "If only...". But these feelings of discontentment often have insidious effects, and only keep growing if left unchecked.
Ever since I was a kid, I've been witness to this sort of thing -- people envying other people; parents envying other parents; moms comparing their daughters and making their kids feel bad about themselves. Never mind that my aunt is actually living quite comfortably, has several gorgeous grandchildren, and a daughter who's happily married (which in this day and age of divorce and rampant philandering, is an achievement in and of itself). The fact that she's not raking in big bucks and coupled with a millionaire husband somehow seems to make her life, at best, lacklustre, and at worst, a failure.
As a stay-at-home mom who's not raking in big bucks myself, I can imagine what my cousin is feeling. But while my aunt -- contented-Christian-who-ought-not-to-covet though she is -- is not entirely happy with her lot, I hope my cousin has not let it affect her. For surely being made to feel a failure, or like you've fallen short, is one of the worse things to go through life with. I hope she knows that being a fulltime mom makes her just as valuable, and as much a success, as Mrs Lawyer or Mrs Director at the office.
"Thou shalt not covet" is one of the ten commandments -- clearly, envy has been a problem since time immemorial. In fact, the commandment in full reads thus: "You shall not covet your neighbour's house. You shall not covet your neighbour's wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour". God was obviously trying to cover all the bases -- knowing people, He had to! Today, it could just as soon read, "You shall not covet your neighbour's car, your neighbour's job, your neighbour's straight-A kid -- indeed, your neighbour's life".
I think God knew that envy and covetousness would not only breed misery in one's own life, but in the lives of those one is close to as well. Nowhere does envy cause more grief I think than in one's own family, among one's own children. Almost every child starts off with an innate desire to be pleasing to his or her parents, to make his or her parents proud. But of course every child is gifted differently, and unfortunately, not always to his or her parents' tastes. Dissatisfied, discontented parents quickly make their children feel inadequate and unacceptable, and is simply a recipe for disaster. "Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?" it says in Proverbs.
The perfect scenario of course is where parents, already confident in themselves, transfer that confidence to their children. These are the parents who are supportive, who celebrate their children's unique strengths and abilities, and truly love who they naturally are -- whatever stage of life they're at. Expressing envious dissatisfaction -- whether to an eight-year-old or a forty-eight-year-old -- only wounds and tears down, and does no one any good. "Never underestimate the power of jealousy and the power of envy to destroy. Never underestimate that" Oliver Stone (of all people) once said.
The key I think is to simply stop comparing oneself to other people! And to start focusing on, and truly appreciating, all the blessings and positive things in one's own life. I strive to be very careful of my words around my own kids, steering clear of such phrases as "If only you..." or "Why can't you be more like...". I am so conscious of the fact that enviously comparing -- whether children, or belongings, or entire lives -- essentially implies that I wish my own were different. I think going through life like that only leads to despair.
Which reminds me of a devotion I read not too long ago. It was entitled Start enjoying you. "...Scripture says that we have the mind of Christ. We can think. speak and learn to behave as Jesus did, and He certainly did not ever compare Himself with anyone or desire to be anything other than what His Father had made Him to be. He lived to do the Father's will, not to compete with others and compare Himself with them.
"I encourage you to be content with who you are. That does not mean that you cannot make progress and continually improve, but when you allow other people to become a law, you are continually disappointed. God will never help you be someone else. Remember that being "different" is good; it is not a bad thing. Celebrate your uniqueness and rejoice in the future God has planned for you. Be confident and start enjoying you!" (extracted from The Confident Woman Devotional, by Joyce Meyer).
Here's to celebrating our own unique selves, lives and successes! Have a blessed, contented weekend everyone!
P.S. Ophelia found her mommy -- without layaway! More about that soon :)