Envious or appreciative?
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
In Australia, it's known as "the tall poppy syndrome." When someone excels in an endeavor, he or she then becomes fair game to being cut down by others. Perhaps it can be traced back to the country's beginnings as a penal colony, where men were either inmates or guards. "Mates" stuck together for survival in a comradely understanding that they were all in the same boat, and no one was better than another. If anyone stood out, breaking the bond, that one was suspected of being a ratter or squealer. This mentality, of course, is not exclusive to "down under."
I was reminded of this phenomenon by some friends who have been successful in their work. Since they've managed to succeed even under fragile economic conditions, they've been observed by others in their field, and sometimes openly envied. One of them explained to me that recently his business had softened somewhat, and he'd found himself actually relieved to be considered doing badly, "just like everyone else."
As we chatted over dinner, I found myself mentally protesting this. My friends had worked very hard, and it seemed fair, and even right, that they succeed and enjoy the fruits of their work. In fact, as I thought about it some more, don't we all deserve to succeed? And even feel glad about the successes of others?
During our discussion, my thought went to a gem of an idea from the Bible I'd found just days before. The verse follows a healing performed by Christ Jesus and includes this comment about him: "He hath done all things well" (Mark 7:37).
Of course that's an accurate assessment; he was the Son of God. But we are each God's children. As God's own children, shouldn't we also expect to do well? Though Jesus had a unique mission and purpose, we share a mutual purpose with him to glorify God. Jesus showed people the way to live as the children of God. Since he did all things well, it stands to reason that he taught us well, showed us well, even prayed for us well.
Mary Baker Eddy wrote: "In Christianity, man bows to the infinite perfection which he is bidden to imitate" ("Unity of Good," pages 15-16). This tells me that we are imitators of the Christly ability to do well.
Now, this kind of achieving is not the result of human perfectionism, but instead comes from understanding our essential nature as spiritual, divinely perfect.
One time I was enrolled in a serious cooking class, and after a year's investment in the class, I faced the practical exam. The exam time had been set for a year, but two days before the test, the starting time was moved back half an hour. Part of the preparation included a minute-by-minute schedule of the two-and-a-half-hour exam, so each minute counted.
I arrived at the original time instead of the newly slotted time, disadvantaging myself. Frozen with self-condemnation and anger, I started to make mistakes with ingredients that were allotted ahead of time and couldn't be replaced according to the test standards. Something had to change right away, so I began to pray.
I started to reason: "God is here with me. God loves and forgives me. God knows me as innocent and able to express Him. I can respond to the intelligence that is God, and humbly obey His direction. God is full of grace; therefore, my actions are graceful, swift, and divinely ordered."
In just moments I felt calm, and steps came together effortlessly. By the end of the exam I was enjoying even tasks that had been difficult during the course. I finished just moments before the ending bell. My instructors were dumbfounded that I'd completed all seven courses, and that when the head of the school came up to judge the meals and choose one student's work as "outstanding," he chose mine. And while that was certainly a gratifying outcome, what still resonates with me is that the entire class was delighted, too. They all cheered, and I could naturally, gladly thank God for rescuing me when I needed to do well.
We can all prove more of divine abilities in ourselves and others as we recognize their source to be God, and expect to do well.