Taming the Green-Eyed Monster
“How’s the conference going for you?”
“Actually very well. When I started coming to these, ten, fifteen years ago, I felt so out of place. Part of it was shyness, of course, and part was just being in the midst of a crowd of people giving papers and talking about books and ideas. But, honestly, that wasn’t the main thing.”
“The main thing was that I was measuring myself against these other people, and I felt insecure. They were all so smart, they knew tons more than I did about ethics and Christian thought, and I knew that I just didn’t measure up to them.”
“So what’s different this time?”
“I’m surrounded by lots of people giving papers and talking about ethics, lots of really smart people, and it’s exciting just to be here.”
“You now feel part of the group?”
“No—that is, yes, I know a lot of people now, but I also know, still, that many of them are super brilliant, and I’m not. What’s different is that I’m just enjoying who they are and the excellence of what they’re doing. I’ve stopped being anxious about me and am finding a lot of enjoyment with them.”
There’s something about our human action that each of us has to learn. Part of “my” action is when I step back and allow you to act. Suppose you are playing viola in an orchestra. There are times for you to act, to play, to play well. There may be occasions where you stand a play a solo. But there are other times when you rest. “Rest” here is a technical musical term: your rest is when other instruments play without you. But because you are part of the orchestra, their action, which you allow by resting from action, also is part of your action.
Part of a person’s action is to step back and allow other persons to act. And enjoy it.
This is what Saint Paul was telling the Corinthians about the “body,” the church. Each part of the body is important.
Beware the green-eyed monster, the monster of envy! He makes us think that the only important thing about ourselves is what we do ourselves, whereas, it’s just as important to allow and enjoy others’ doing what they do well.
Out & About. I spoke about friendship at Holy-Trinity-by-the-Lake’s “theology on tap” program, Wed. Jan. 9. (I welcome invitations to speak to parishes!)
I will be teaching Christian ethics at the Stanton Center this spring: five, monthly, Saturday-afternoon classes at St. Matthew’s Cathedral. More info here: http://www.episcopalcathedral.org/stanton-center/ The first class is January 19.
“Good Books & Good Talk”: Sun., Feb. 10, I’ll lead a seminar discussion of Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel of 2004, Gilead. This is a faith-soaked novel of moral complexity set in the American Midwest, with themes of abolition, pacifism, father-son relations, love and friendship. Anyone who reads the book is welcome to the conversation at Incarnation, 3966 McKinney Ave., Dallas, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.