The Art of Being Happy for Another Person
Sometimes when something good happens to someone else, my immediate reaction is not to be happy for the other person. My immediate reaction is to be jealous, incredulous or even suspicious. I blame it on being a member of the Facebook generation, where people trumpet their good news and hide their bad news, but the real culprit is the sinfulness in my soul. Shoulda seen that one coming!
My dad used to say to us (repeatedly) growing up, that other people’s successes and failures really have nothing to do with us. Spending time being jealous about another person’s success or crowing over another’s failure gets you nowhere and really makes it hard to have lifelong, productive friendships with anyone, because you’ll always be comparing your situation to another’s. Furthermore, when you vocalize your immature protestations, that gossip makes you look petty and childish. After experiencing a little more of life, particularly after college, I can say he’s right. I’d also add to his thoughts slightly by saying that when you do care about other’s successes and failures, it can be such a witness to Love. That way, you can celebrate other’s happiness and pray for other’s sorrow.
I’d go further to say that my reactions usually stem from my own insecurities. For instance, I am ridiculously insecure that I am twenty five years old, have an undergraduate and graduate degree and yet still have trouble finding a job. So, when a friend got a job at the Department of Justice recently, my first instinct was jealousy; but when she called to tell me the news, the excitement in her voice pushed my jealous feelings away. I love her… so I couldn’t help being happy for her!
Another one of my relatives will make constant digs, semi-joking that I’m lazy and implying that it’s beneath me to rely on my husband’s income. Deep breaths (and yes, some tears) help me to reflect on the fact that there’s nothing sinful about (that aspect of) my life. If you’re not living in a state of sin, you really have no reason to be insecure. God made you, and your situation. He knows your struggles, your ambitions, your hurdles, your desires, and, most importantly, what will actually be the best for your soul. Let God be your compass instead of popular opinion!! People are tempermental, emotional, unreasonable, unreliable and prone to be led astray. Spending time trying to please everyone is exhausting and often counterproductive. Having faith that He knows what’s best for me and will help me get there helps me to face my insecurities and realize that, whatever other people may think of me, I’m so happy living the life He made for me and the paths He’s lead me down.
Another angle to grant perspective is to think about a life of bitterness versus a life of happiness. The more time I spend in Adoration, the more I realize how teeeeeeeeeeny tiny my feelings of ill will are compared to the love God has for me. We get such limited time on Earth, why would I spend it stewing about something God didn’t plan for me?
Finally, at the risk of sounding tangential, I must broach the arena of Facebook etiquette. Most people have friends who are probably always bragging about how fabulous their lives are, it seems to just make everyone else feel bad. A friend was recently telling me that she thought that people who are constantly posting on Facebook about how wonderful their lives are, are simply trying to paint a facade of satisfaction. Whether or not that’s true, I think it’s important for us to actually email, call or write a letter to the people we care about. For me, Facebook has a way of cheapening things. It makes everything that should be three dimensional, two dimensional. Sure, it’s a great way of communicating, but I think we’d be wise to recognize its limitations.
Facebook “realities” aside, maybe this year we could all resolve to try to be genuinely happy for someone we don’t particularly care for or of whom we’re just a teensy bit jealous. A nice note, a thoughtful text or the like will be your way of bringing Christ’s light to others and vanquishing a little sin in your heart.