Echos of the Heart
Creative Meditations for the Developing Soul
I find that the people we are most jealous and judgmental towards are the same people that we don’t know how they would describe their life story. They are the people that we have not stopped to ask about their deep insecurities, struggles, or the trauma that they have endured. What we witness instead are the highlights of their life. Maybe we notice how they look, dress, or how they hold themselves. Maybe we pay attention to the way that other people like them, even assuming that others admire them more than us. Maybe we notice that they have a significant other or seemingly secure family relationships. Or, we like the job, house, & vacations they experience. But friends, this is all surface level information, because it says nothing about their soul. Who we have been & who we are becoming is found in the narrative of sufferings: the stories of our lives.
This summer I lived with 19 women in a Victorian mansion. Most of the time when I tell people that, they are shocked, & assume that drama was eminent. But honestly, it was one of the most vivacious, loving & healing community friendship experiences I've had the pleasure to live. How could that be the case? Well, within our first week of living there, we shared our life stories, and that vulnerability was maintained throughout the whole summer.
Now, I had some radiant women living in my house—stunning inside & out. By mere glance in a social setting, or more accurately on social media, I’m sure one could find reasons to covet their lives or be intimidated by them. But, since we had been vulnerable with each other about our life struggles & our big moments of overcoming battles with God, instead of comparing ourselves to one another, we had empathy. Instead of being jealous of one another, we were in awe over the miracle of each other’s lives. Since we were familiar with each others fears & weaknesses, we celebrated when we witnessed each other’s new victories. I had the opportunity to live in a house with 19 other women who had experienced great pain in life, and yet they were radiant! They were moving towards wholeness. They were gathering wisdom. I witnessed the women in my house using the strength that they had gained in their struggles to help uplift someone else in the midst of their suffering. Whenever I saw the women in my house shining, I was in awe of them and Gods ability to help them rise up again, to believe again, to love again.
This year I’ve had the great pleasure to hear the life stories of many other friends and share mine with them. Every time, I see an increase in the love that we have for each other. Our hearts say, “Wow, you made it through that time of suffering, and you're continuing to learn from it... you’re SO AMAZING! I’m so grateful that you have transformed the ways you’ve been hurt, into how you intentionally choose to love others.”
But, in my friendships where we share our life stories in a far too overdue moment, like when crisis strikes, my heart says, “Wow, I wish I knew that sooner. I wish I knew those triggers, those weak spots, that anxiety. Because now I can understand who you are deeper. Now I have a better idea of how to love you, & to assume where the boundaries lay, before I cross them. I can familiarize myself with your weaknesses. I can have grace & mercy for your moments of fear & insecurity.” The stories that we tell can help cultivate a mutual, thoughtful love for one another. If you are building a friendship with someone you are beginning to trust, don't hide your story.
So, next time you find yourself coveting someone’s 9am - 5pm job, or group of friends, or weekend activities, or talented skill, or personality trait, or physical health, just remember, you have no idea what their story was of how they became who they are. They had huge road blocks, disappointments & insecurities along the way. They need daily strength to sustain everything that they have in their life. There is no reward that manifested in their life that came without their personal investment. I’m sure you know what that struggle is like in your own story. Why not believe that the people you compare yourself to have intense insecurities and difficulties in life, even regarding the part of their life that you have jealousy toward?
Within the nature of who you are & the life that you are living, there is something that you have that is extraordinarily valuable to someone else. These miracles in our lives happen frequently to each of us. The story of how those miracles unfold in a lifetime is completely unique. Even when different people have a blessing that could be categorized similarly (like fame or family), no two blessings are the same. From person to person, blessings arrive & are sustained within our completely unique narrative. God made you because He takes delight in the storyline He is writing with YOU. God anticipates the miracles He plans to unfold within YOUR story. Believe in the fact that God is infinite and He carries all of the abundant resources in the universe. There are more than enough miracles from heaven and on earth for all of us.
So, maybe the next time you find yourself in a never-ending cycle of being jealous of someone else or their blessing, spend time thinking deeply about who they are and what expectations life may demand of them. Or even better, ask them a fearless question, and inquire about how they arrived in the place they are today. What internal or external battles did they have to overcome? What gives them the inspiration & perseverance to continue on their path? What are the struggles that they have to keep facing? I’m sure that you will be humbled & amazed by their story.