Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Other People's Happiness

I'm going to say something that we've all thought at one point or another, but most of us (meaning people who are not me) are polite enough not to actually say:  Being happy for other people is sometimes really hard.  And I don't mean when you find out that slacker you went to college with, gave a free couch to and occasionally cleaned after is now a successful musician (to use a random example that is not at all related to my life).  It's perfectly okay to question the justice of the world on that one.  What I'm talking about being happy for people that you love and want good things to happen to, people who are an active part of your life.  Faking it just isn't enough for those people, but I will admit that I totally have.

I can be selfish and petty and mean, and I've found that social media tends to cultivate some of this in me.  Trust me, this is not one of those times when I blame Facebook and Twitter for my problems, either.  It's just that not too terribly long ago, when someone was getting married or having a baby, you found out the old fashioned way--through the gossip lines via your mother.  And then you didn't go on Pinterest and see 15,000 pins about it or get weekly (sometimes daily) updates on which piece of fruit is the size of the baby.  You weren't confronted with an all-out media assault of what someone else has that you don't.  (Did I mention jealous in my list?)  It's much easier to adopt an "out of sight, out of mind" philosophy when you only hear about it if you run into someone at the grocery store, rather than every time you turn on your computer.

Believe it or not, this used to be a much bigger problem for me than it is now.  Oh, I was a pro at loooking the part of happy at the announcement of the news.  But then, I would promptly go home and cry and wail and generally lash out at God for allowing someone else to have the things that I wanted so badly and couldn't have.  And it's not that I am completely cured now, trust me.  It's just that I finally came to terms with the hard cold truth that it wasn't all about me.  (How disappointing!)  God grabbed me by my face (not really, but He might as well have) and reminded me that He wasn't punishing me by giving someone else something wonderful, and it was high time that I put on my big girl pants and embraced the happy.  Also, when a friend has suffered an unimaginable hurt in their life, you find yourself wanting happiness for them more than you've ever wanted anything for yourself.  (Trust me on that one.)  The kind of joy you feel when that happiness finally comes eclipses any of the other less pleasant things.

I don't guess that this is just a single girl thing, but I would say that it's something single girls definitely have to deal with.  So, I'm curious...how do you deal (single or not)?  Are you one of those selfless wonders who can put other's happiness first?  (Because seriously, high five to you!)  What lessons have you learned about this?  I would really like to hear from some other people on this one, so comment away!


  1. Oh. My. Goodness. I think we all deal with this to some extent. I am married to a wonderful man so my challenge comes in the kid category. We've been in the process of adopting for about a year now. When I go to baby showers or talk about pregnancy with my friends, there's that twinge of jealousy. We have not dealt with infertility but it's more about knowing they are going to hold their child in a few short months and mine could still be years away. But I'll call it what it is: it's envy and it's a sin. It's desiring someone else's blessing. It's not my blessing to want. So I am trying really hard to confess this sin to God and rest in the blessings I have already been given. It's not easy. But sanctification never is. Thanks for your honesty. One of the biggest weapons used against us is isolation and shame. We're all in this together!

  2. I definitely deal with this. I was actually just talking about it yesterday. A lot of my friends just got engaged, a lot are pregnant or just had a baby, and I often feel left behind. But something I love and have found the only thing that works for me is to read through the Psalms. Specifically the melancholy ones. It's so helpful to see others who are sad and downtrodden wailing out to God, but then praising him, too. It reminds me to do that. To both wail and praise. I find that when I'm honest with God, but also honest with myself about who God is, I'm more able to recognize how to be happy for someone even though the jealousy sneaks in.

  3. First of all, yep. And secondly, yep.

    For a while I dealt in ways that were pretty detrimental in a lot of ways that I will also not be sharing over the world wide web.

    Now, I rarely have a pity session. I don't know what the difference is, and I didn't do anything differently. I guess at some point I got used to the way it is. I also got a little better at insulating myself when I knew it was a particularly sensitive time. I didn't spent a lot of time in the teacher's lounge in December, because it's a rough month for me and I can't handle the constant baby/child/breast feeding conversation.

    Around March and again in May, I will probably do the same thing. And maybe I will have to do that for the rest of my life.

    I don't always respond to announcements. I got rid of facebook. And if it's really necessary, I give myself permission to skip a baby shower. Sure, I still send gifts, but if I know I can't "do it" that day, I don't make myself. And I have to be comfortable with the fact that if this ever happens (like when Hell freezes over), there will be a much smaller list of people who can celebrate with me because I wasn't able to celebrate with them.

    I had to get really comfortable with shutting down and shutting off in lots of circumstances--not because I'm a heartless bitch, but because it was feeding a monster I couldn't control. I don't know how to tell people what it is to not be able to get out of bed, but I sure as hell remember how it felt and I don't want to go back there. And when others challenge that response with "And one little baby shower would do that?" I have to be realistic: Yes. Sometimes it can.

    I would much rather live--really live--than be stuck in the throws of obligation knowing that I will find myself in the same horrible cycle I couldn't swim out of on my own. And I wish more people understood that.

    1. Clarification: I rarely have a pity session over other people’s joy. I still have sessions between God and I that will stay between God and I. Essentially, I can be happy for people—and not in a fakey, sweet sort of way either. For the most part, I am genuinely happy for lots of people and their situations. But that doesn’t mean I can always actively participate, because I’m not willing to “take my chances” on where I was at one time if that makes any sense at all.

  4. Do you read Jon Acuffs blog (Stuff Christians Like)...there was an interesting discussion in the comments over there this week on this very topic. Not just the jealousy thing but also the idea that when you run into someone you haven't seen everyone already knows all the news. Here's the link if you're interested...the discussion was more in the comments-


    that address looks crazy-hope it works

  5. Seriously? If someone says that they HAVEN'T struggled with this, they are lying! I've learned that regardless of what you have, the grass always looks greener on the other side, but it sure is hard not to long for that grass when it looks so pretty and lush. I think it is difficult to be content when we live in the world that we do. Period. Society places expectations on us (marriage, kids, career - whatever!), but what we often fail to remember is that we aren't answering to society, we're answering to God and we should be striving to achieve His expectations (which often look NOTHING like society's).

    And you're right - it's not about any of us. Some days that SUCKS!


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