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Friday, June 1, 2012

The Green Eyed Monster


Jealousy is a vicious taskmaster. More tyrannical than poor George III ever dreamed of, it extracts the joy from our days and leaves us only with burning want. What’s worse, outside of romantic attachments, we don’t always recognize it.

I tend to be competitive. A quality which western society promotes. After all, who likes to lose? But when I slough away the extraneous, the seedling emotion I feel as I mortgage that final Monopoly property is jealousy. I am jealous of my rival’s success, particularly since it comes at my expense. Tagging along behind jealousy are anger, bitterness, disappointment—a whole host of emotional fiends.

I can avoid the annual Thanksgiving round of Monopoly in order to avoid provoking the beast within, but what if the good Lord in his wisdom made me a writer? Aren’t we all in constant competition with one another? After all, no matter how good my book is, there are only so many slots available. Doesn’t it follow that my fellow author’s success means that my own opportunities are diminished?

Maybe. IF we weren’t Christian authors. But once Christ enters a situation He has a way of upending all the dynamics. The reality is So-and-so’s success was not meant for me. Nor I for her success. God has a unique route planned out for each of us. Only a few will be bestsellers, even fewer will sell millions of copies, some will find critical acclaim, some will be sweep the contest circuit, others may find their bliss through self-publishing. What we all share is the desire to matter.

At the ACFW conference a couple of years ago, literary agent, Chip MacGregor gave a devotion. The challenge he posed was that we pursue significance rather than success.

Success is illusory and impermanent. It flits out of our grasp or even stays stubbornly out of reach no matter what we do. By contrast, as a child of God, we are already significant, and the more we submit to His will in our lives, the more we are likely to influence others and grow in significance.

If we can get a hold of that perspective shift, then rather than grieving or growing embittered when we hear news of the nine-book deal signed by Author X with major publisher Y based on their very first rough draft that was only 2/3rds completed when the editor saw it, we will be able to rejoice in their success, while still secure in our significance.

I do not want to be the one to begrudge another author. None of us can truly know what an individual has been through to get where they are. What seems like an unfairly easy path from the outside, might look a whole lot harder than my own if I saw it in more detail.

The point is that God’s plan for us is not going to be derailed because someone else obtained the contract we desired. It wasn’t an unexpected development in heaven. They haven’t taken anything from us. Trust in God’s plan frees us from the burden of envy. 

I still battle my own inner Hulk at times, the green monster that wants to smash my contentment with jealousy. I have to repent and ask Christ back into my attitude. When I can genuinely pray that God blesses the work of the individual and uses their offering to build his kingdom, I know I’ve tamed the monster once again.

Do you ever struggle with jealousy? How do you handle those issues?

Influenced by books like The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, Lisa Karon Richardson’s early books were heavy on boarding schools and creepy houses. Now that she’s (mostly) all grown-up she still loves a healthy dash of adventure and excitement in any story she creates, even her real-life story. She’s been a missionary to the Seychelles and Gabon and now that she and her husband are back in America, they are tackling a brand new adventure, starting a daughter-work church in a new city. Her first novella, Impressed by Love, part of the Colonial Courtships collection, is coming in October, 2012 followed shortly thereafter by The Magistrate’s Folly in November.

8 comments:

  1. You know what? When I read this I knew it was Lisa and that was long before I came to her photo at the end. I love the fact I can recognize her voice (it happens with a lot of us here) and I love the honesty in our thoughts that come across on the page (er...screen).

    Or maybe it's just that I would never think to play monopoly with you Lisa, thanks to some warning system I have. ha ha.

    I will publicly admit here that I play Words with Friends with about 7-8 people and most are Inkies. As I rarely win, I am either not as word-smart, or not as competitive... I'm okay with that. I compete in other ways in life ( and it's rather harmless).

    But a little flicker of competitiveness must be in here somewhere. I'm going to try and recognize it when it happens. Thanks Lisa! nice job. nice hulk, too~

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  2. Aww, thanks Deb. I think that's the nicest thing I've heard about my writing in a long time!

    Monopoly was always really intense at our house for some reason. Maybe that's why we only played it once a year!?

    Glad you like my Hulk. Oh, and I know the Avengers isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I really enjoyed it! Great action movie.

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  3. This is a great post, Lisa, and a wonderful reminder. I especially love this part:

    "It wasn’t an unexpected development in heaven. They haven’t taken anything from us."

    I love that thought!

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  4. Thanks, Suzie. I wish I could remember it more often!

    Hey, Deb, speaking of WWF, it's your turn!

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  5. Great post, Lisa. I really like the way you describe the ...nine-book deal signed by Author X with major publisher Y based on their very first rough draft that was only 2/3rds completed when the editor saw it...

    LOL. That's the extreme, but I seem to hear it a lot - or maybe it's the same one re-circulating with different facts.

    Even though I know God is directing my writing, it still hurts when I read something like that. Or when I see a book published by an author who was a contest co-finalist with me. And I think, has it only been a year? Ugh.

    But I cling to His comfort, and the wise words and support of my Inky sisters whenever I feel beaten. Praise God the feeling doesn't last long, and nowhere near as often as it did when I was entering contests.

    Take care of yourself, Lisa. We're praying for you.

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  6. Good friends are essential for sure, Anita! I appreciate the Inkies so much. I can't imagine I'd be where I am without you all.

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  7. Special post, Lisa. I'd be lying if I claimed I never felt a bit of resentment, self-doubt, frustration, etc. Writing is an excellent microcosm for how I deal with the rest of my life, too.

    No need to compare ourselves to one another when we are in service to the Lord.

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  8. Wonderful, honest, where-the-rubber-hits-the-road post, (my favorite kind), Lisa!
    While I'm not terribly competitive, sometimes I do feel like I was standing behind the door when certain "favors" were being passed out. Like Suzie, I LOVED this...
    "It wasn’t an unexpected development in heaven. They haven’t taken anything from us."
    It reminds me that jealousy and envy stem from a lack of understanding about the greatness of our God. God is big enough to do more than any of us are able to think or imagine, so when I find myself facing the green-eyed monster, I need to remember that God is big enough to take care of me just as well as He has taken care of all the people I might be tempted to be jealous of!
    ((HUGS)) and thinking of and praying for you this week!

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