The seedbed of envy
I remember it well. Helping with a character development workshop in Grand Rapids, my trainer, Lawrence Edwards, made this startling observation: Comparison is the seedbed of envy.
Envy – that ugly, distasteful character defect that fuels pettiness, judgments, isolation, and division – grows in the soil of comparison?
I never thought about that before… comparison.
Hmmmm. I do that a lot, I thought.
It’s been how I orient myself in life.
“She’s much smarter than I am, but him — not so much”. “That guy’s career is in better shape than mine, I’m glad I’m not in her shoes”. “Shoot, I’m fatter than she is, but not as heavy as that slob…”.
Comparison seems so natural. In my marriage with Annie the thought stream is endless: which of us is messier, better with money, more consistent with the kids, more creative, less fun to be around, healthier, harder working, better with people, etc, etc, etc.
Comparison, I learned, breeds envy and it’s impossible to love the one I envy. Impossible.
See, comparison invites me to focus on all the areas where you and I are different. Rather than serving to bring us together, the practice of comparison divides, distances, isolates.
So while the differences between us may be real they don’t have to be important — at all. It’s possible to surrender the practice. It can be eradicated from your thinking. I can choose to focus on what we share; what we have in common; what connects us. The more I do this, the more rich and satisfying my relationships.
In coaching this practice is indispensable. To coach well, I ‘get on the same side of the table’ as my client. When a client perceives that we’re together, she’s less defended, more open to what I bring. Conversely, if you sense that I think I’m better than you, even if you believe you could benefit, you’ll likely resist what I have to say.
It’s terrible. All they choose to see is what divides them. As if they’ve made a ritual of examining and magnifying every difference between them while ignoring and overlooking the wonderful things they have in common.
Envy, jealously, resentment, bitterness – these grow in the seedbed of comparison. Unchecked, they’re deadly to intimacy, to collaborative effectiveness at work, to friendship.
Catch yourself comparing. Catch yourself ten times in the next week or two. With Thanksgiving family reunions on the horizon it shouldn’t be hard. When you do, choose to find something you two have in common — and focus on that.
Watch what God does in your relationships, and your heart, as you do.
Coaching Distinctions # 4
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