I’ve written before about jealousy in the context of my career. And then there was Katherine’s quote on jealousy, that jealousy is a warning sign. So you’d think I would have eliminated it from my thoughts once and for all.
But like most things in our human brains, the minute you think you have something wrapped up tight, it bursts out again.
That’s where I was when I was recently struck with jealousy within a friendship. I got some news that made me feel like I was on the very-late-if-ever-update train with an old friend, and I was feeling left out. I jumped quickly from kind thoughts to a jealous, “Oh, wow… I guess I’m not on the list anymore,” and I felt like I didn’t matter very much.
It took about 10 minutes for me to go through the whole works: a little anxious, a little angry, and finally frustrated and looking for a way to process this in a healthy way.
Once I went through my normal “Stop Being Angry” routine of considering this 100 percent from the friend’s angle (What if the person thinks I wouldn’t care to hear about it? What if the person is genuinely obscenely busy and overwhelmed? What if [oh my gosh] my friend’s worlds don’t revolve around me?), God stepped in to do His magic.
A friend is just a friend. It’s someone I have a close relationship with. It’s not someone I gave birth to, or whose life I saved, or who owes me anything.
Relationships are optional, and we’re just friends. And yet the vivid feelings I felt overwhelmed me.
How much more so does God feel about my attention? About how I’ve slacked on my Lenten obligations to read about my faith and devote daily time to praying? About how I don’t check in with him all the time, or always look to Him for what I ought to do or where I ought to be headed?
Much in the same way a friendship is optional (no friend of mine has an obligation to share; we choose how much to share, and everything shared is a free gift), so is my love and service to God. None of this is forced, and it all can only be given freely.
So how much of my time do I give freely to God, and how much do I take advantage of the gift of that relationship?
How often do I let those human relationship excuses (What if He just doesn’t care that much? What if I’m super busy? What if my life doesn’t revolve around Him?) apply to the most central relationship of my life?
Do I live as if “He is jealous for me,” every day? Do I pause to check in with someone who feels a thousand times what I felt with this friend about me everyday?
It’s not that I have to live this way. It’s that I would be so much happier if I lived this way.
If I sourced all my support, love, affirmation, and energy from God alone, I wouldn’t begrudge this friend for not filling me in. I’d be grateful to ever hear the news at all.
I wouldn’t feel badgered to call my mom every week. I’d thank God my mom is still alive and so loving that she is interested in hearing every detail.
I’d be even stronger, and more peaceful, about setting boundaries with my human relationships to help them function in the right way. I wouldn’t succumb to disordered feelings of guilt and social pressure. I wouldn’t tolerate abusive behavior that makes me feel less than God meant me to be.
I’d be more free to pass on the excess love (there’s always excess) to those in my life who need it more than I do by being quick to forgive, to help, to listen without judgement. Everything would fall into place in the beautiful way it was made to. If only I focus on the right thing, the right relationship in my life.
So now I get to pose the question to you, Catholic faithful or not: where do you put your human relationships before and above the deeper truths in your life?
Do you feel free to love people and set boundaries with people without being afraid of “human consequences”? How much more free would you be to engage other people as a loving friend, spouse, child, or sibling if you focused on the only meaningful constant in your life– your faith or belief system?