To be the envy of all…

It struck me today, why do so many people want to be “the envy of all”?

I have been there.  There was a time when something in me desired this.  Not any more.  Thank God.

So what is this desire?  Does the envy of others provide validation that we have significance?  Does the envy of others medicate our insecurities?

This desire has been an acceptable vice in many of the supposedly healthier environments I have been a part of such as Church and AA.  At least as I have experienced them.

It is perfectly fine to out-do fellow congregation members with a nicer suit, nicer car, nicer home, nicer family.  Not that these things in and of themselves are bad.  But there had been little resistance to the runaway envy over such things.

And in AA, I have seen and experienced innumerable forms of attention-seeking and one-upmanship.  Ever experience, “the parade of chips”, when chips are given out publicly to recognize sober time by the months?… and the struts that many engage and outfits they wear to walk to the front of the room and receive their chip?

My intent was not so much to complain or criticize, but rather to highlight, examine, and discuss.

Thoughts on why we do this and why it tends to be permissible in circles that seek healthier ways to live and think?

Ciao.

Chaz

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About Chaz

Husband, father, brother, son, friend. Sober member of AA. Grateful for the life God gave me and for the happy struggle of recovery.
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9 Responses to To be the envy of all…

  1. Debby says:

    You’ve posed something I’ve not really considered. We have monthly celebrations for sobriety in our Center and give out sobriety cards. Most of the men dress the way they do any other day but some, on their gradation night, will dress up some. I’ve probably seen what you’re talking about more in church which is where you’d think we’d see it the least.

    I have no great revelation about it but wonder just how affected we are by ad’s. We all seem vulnerable to how magazine covers tell us to look and there’s no shortage of television shows focusing on looks, more, limelight and stardom. We’re shallow people, it seems. In desperate need of a Savior to save us from ourselves.

    Good question you pose. I hope you’ll have more intelligent responses than mine 😉

    • Chaz says:

      Thanks Debby… I did not mean to presume that any one person going to the front of a recovery meeting for a chip or card was hoping to envied. It is simply my observation that it appears many do. In my recovery community anyway.

      I guess the desire to be envied rattles me because it is a sneaky little thing that often goes un-detected. One that I allowed in unknowingly.

      When I came to realize this fact, I began to ask why. A partial answer I got prior to posting was that we are often in environments that support envy. Including church as many of us practice it.

      I had spent years in churches that encouraged prosperity. Which is fine, except that few of us are balanced or stable enough to be able to handle it in a healthy way. We somehow seem to need the drama of showing off or being envied. Perhaps it is fear that we may lose it, or the need for significance in the eyes of others. Polar opposite to Jesus is it not? “He who is greatest among you shall be your servant”, hardly lends itself to self-agrandizement.

      I dont mean to paint everyone with the same brush. We are all individual and only God knows our hearts.

      It just came to mind in a disturbing way and I wanted to put it out for discussion. Thanks so much for adding to the discussion.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

      • Debby says:

        No worries on this end, Chaz. You have a very valid point and one I’ve had to watch in my life too. It’s those “little” things, things than can go unnoticed in ourselves that trip us up. You ask the hard questions and it’s good.

  2. Debbie says:

    You have me thinking about encouragement. We want to encourage each other . ..but maybe we don’t always understand exactly what we are encouraging. I want to encourage the inner person in Christ and to Christ . ..but do I too often stop at just encouraging the outer person and all the things I see with my eyes? Thanks Chaz , for giving us a pause to think. God bless you!

    • Chaz says:

      Hi Debbie…. I agree that we should, when we are operating from a pure motive, use our gifts and talents to encourage. I suppose it has simply been my experience that too many of us cross the faint line too easily and end up won over by the temptation to show-boat and receive the little thrill of making others envious. And it can be such a subtle thing.

      Given that pride underlies most sin, and that we can all be tempted, I simply think this can be such a dangrous thing for us imperfect people.

      Yet I don’t pretend to know the intents of hearts of others. It is pretty clear that no man fully knows his own heart on his own.

      But back to your point about encouragement. Yes, I wish it were so all of the time. We can use our gifts, strengths, and talents to encourage others. I try to. I have been blessed with a nice company vehicle. I do my best to use this to help others and encourage others with the fact that I was a step away from having my car repo’d when I was in my active alcoholism. But today, I am entrusted and blessed with a beautiful vehcile. I hope this is encouraging to others who are struggling with feelings of failure like I was, and that good things can come their way in time like they did for me.

      But would it not be easy to slip into a prideful “I’m all that” as expressed with a nice vehicle? Sure it would be. I do my best not to and just continually thank God for the blessing and his voice to tell me how to serve him with it.

      Thanks for adding to the dialogue.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

  3. Tommy Simpson says:

    You have raised a question I have thought about at times. Simply put when someone tries to outdo the Jones, it is because of a feeling of inferiority in their character.
    When you think about this you have got to consider the circumstances. Many times when someone has a nicer car, clothes or something we say they are trying to show-off. Sometimes this is not the case. It would be natural for the CEO of a large company to make larger contributions to the church, but there are people who say he is just showing-off. Ask yourself what they would say if he donated what the other members did? There is many other examples of this type of misunderstanding.
    Then there are sections of our character which were formed by the way we were raised. I was raised being taught when we go to the house of the Lord he is presenting his best to us, and we should always present our best to him. I was raised when going to the house of the Lord to always be groomed, cleanm and wear a suit. I have not been able to break the way I was raised. If I do not go in such a manner I am ashamed of the way I have presented myself in the house of the Lord. I feel self-concious many times because the others do not wear suits, but I feel far worse if i do not come properly to the house of the Lord. Many people have traits they cannot break because that was the way they were raised.
    For people who exhibit these characteristics we need to understand there are those who show off. In each case whether it is showing-off, our life-style, or traits we have been taught all our lives, we need to stop pointing the finger and realize no matter what the circumstance there is a reason for each ones behavior. We need to have compassion and try to understand.

    • Chaz says:

      Hi Tommy…. thanks for the reply.

      I take from your point that thoughts and intents of the heart are really the key issue. And frankly, none of us can know what others’ thoughts and intents are, can we?

      I agree, we should not pre-judge someone who has something superior to us in quality or value. To presume they are showing off is equally wrong to them actually showing it off. This I refer to as ‘reverse snobbery’…the practice of automatically presuming people of greater affluence are conscending to us.

      I suppose the distinction I should make in my initial post is to say, “when we feel tempted to make others envious”. Rather than presume that we all do. Because certainly some do not.

      Your point about why you wear suits to church being a good example. I know of a wonderful, humble christian man who has always stated the same… that he dresses for church out of reverence to God…. giving him his best in this way.

      And yes, ‘keeping up wtih the jones’ mentality is born out of insecurity.

      I just think that a wise and kind heart would do well to watch for and safeguard against this type of temptation. It is so subtle and can easily sneak in. Like many sins. It is the 1 degree of extra heat in the pot of water in which we sit that eventually boils.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and helping me with mine.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

  4. When I took my ten year chip, the group I took it at, gold plated my 2 year chip, and my sponsor gave me the gold plated for 10. It was a very humbling experience. Because I read about the old timers and kept it all in perspective. Sobriety is important and showing the newcomer that it can be done is the proper message.

    There is a sense of “one ups man ship” in some meetings, you know the old ego and strut of some members. My group keeps me on a short leash so I don’t get ahead of myself. I spoke on my anniversary and wore a tie to get my chip – it was a big night for me and in the same breath, it was not all about me because a woman took 40 years at the same meeting. So 10 was a pittance.

    I try to keep myself in check and I am just a servant to my group, I do my service and don’t make waves. We’ve been able to keep the egos out of our group, whether that be by the group or by past experience.

    At our Church, (the Anglican Cathedral) people are pretty plain. At least in our congregation. If there is self competition to be the better worshiper I don’t usually get involved. People would rather sit farther to the back of the sanctuary than sit in the front pews. I don’t know if that speaks of humility but my fellows in congregation are very salt of the earth people.

    • Chaz says:

      Hi Jeremy…. thanks for your reply.

      It is not my place or intent to judge the motives of any one person in any specific event. I know there is a place for exemplification of success such as a cake meeting or chip receiving. I am glad to hear that in your AA community, there is a distinction between celebration/example versus showboating.

      I am sure you would agree that where the former exists, its uglier step-cousin (the latter) is eager to jump in and displace it. Keeping in mind we all have weaknesses and we are in communities to which we bring our weak selves. So of course some are going to take the bait and let their ‘envy of all’ motive sneak in under the radar. Or mistakenly think that it is the thing to do.

      But like any of us as kids learning to ride a bike for the first time, it is ok to fall off a few times as part of the learning process. It just happens.

      Thanks as always for sharing.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

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