When I was in high school, I had the most amazing friend. She was wiser than any teenager has any right to be. She was an artist and a poet, a kind soul and a lover of Jesus. She came into journalism class one day, excited to learn that one of her poems had been published. When she told me, I was thrilled! How cool is that for a young girl? If you know me, you know that my reactions are rarely small and this was no exception. She looked at me in all seriousness and said, “I love telling you things because you get so excited for other people. It’s one of my favorite things about you.” That has stuck with me. Maybe it’s because she died not long after she said these words to me, but I have carried them with me for more than 20 years.
When looking at small acts of kindness, I thought about her words. Finding joy in someone else’s success can be such a blessing. As women, we are prone to be unkind and judgmental toward each other. I don’t think it’s necessarily intentional all the time. Maybe it’s societal; maybe it’s just in our sinful nature. We’ve all heard how social media can be harmful. This is one of those ways. We see other lives that we feel are better than ours. And rather than celebrating (or remembering that Facebook and reality don’t always look the same), we become jealous and bitter. No one wants to live like that. God certainly didn’t intend for our hearts to feel like that.
So what do we do?
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” We are called to surround each other in love and support each other. It’s pretty difficult to do that with a bad attitude or an envious heart. Sometimes it takes more effort than it should. But I have found that genuinely praying for a generous, joyful heart will help. The thing that we as women seem to forget is that someone else’s success is not our failure. There is enough good to go around and sharing in each other’s accomplishments is its own victory.
It almost seems trite to say these things. We’ve heard to love one another and treat others like we want to be treated for most of our lives. Yet as soon as we shift our gaze to someone else, the ugly slips in. Keeping our hearts and minds with Jesus is really the only defense.
Paul closes his second letter to the Corinthians with these words: Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
I don’t know about you, but I want that kind of peace. This one act of applauding our sisters and genuinely celebrating them can be one step toward that.