My Faith laces her friend’s strawberry blonde hair through fingers, her eyes moving from the American Girl french braid guide to woven locks. She keeps at it, and when she’s done the braid looks better than any I’ve made. I say enthusiastically, “What a stunning hairstyle!”
Faith says, “Thanks, mama. Doesn’t she look pretty?”
Her friend sits with legs sprawling over the trundle bed, toes tapping the frame. She smiles and replies, “Well, Faith does french braids better than anyone.”
I listen to them chatter a little more before leaving. Later I fold laundry, and my mind returns to their words and actions. They were giving each other a little time and doing something that made the other feel beautiful. I am reminded that my children will gravitate towards whomever gives them those two things: time and encouragement. And really, don’t we grown-ups want to be with those who give us these things, too? But sometimes rather than celebrating the blessings and talent of another person, I’d rather sit and stew over how her french braid looks so much nicer than mine.
Or how her house is prettier, her clothes are nicer, her kids are better behaved.
Jealousy for me isn’t so much a green-eyed monster but a steely gray-eyed, well dressed woman who expertly employs the art of suggestion. She looks back and forth between me and the thing I’m “missing” and subtly plants seeds of doubt. She convinces me to compare and therefore steals my joy. Pretty soon, I think of little else other than how I’d be greater if I had different.
When Jesus’ disciples wanted to know which of them would be greatest, Jesus didn’t say it would be the one who was the most of anything, but the one who was the least of everything.
Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all – he is the greatest.”
In Jesus’ time, children were valued as much as stray dogs. So when He answered their question by holding a small child close, He made the ultimate point that the only way up is down. The only way to be the greatest is to be the least.
One sure fire way to make yourself the least – and let go of jealousy – is to voice encouragement to someone else. Turn yourself outward, even if it’s the last thing in the world you feel like doing. Encouraging someone else keeps the cycle of grace moving and gives wings to her joy. And the amazing thing? When we do this, we are telling God “thank you” for that person’s gift. While it’s of upmost importance to acknowledge gifts God delivers to us, acknowledging gifts God delivers to others breeds joy inside us, too.
In the garden of my soul, doubts die and joy germinates when I build others up.
And just like my daughter’s friend who isn’t afraid to give a compliment, I want to be the friend who is secure enough in her own talents to acknowledge yours. Because while I’m not all that, I’m not all that bad, either. And neither are you!
How do you fight Ms. Jealousy and let joy germinate in the garden of your soul?