On Jealousy

Jealousy has crept up and grabbed hold of me. It wasn’t a surprise. It was waiting there, beneath the surface, for the right catalyst to push it out into the light.

You see, I’m a part of a community. I like them. They like me. But sometimes I feel I’m never going to measure up. I stumble along, bumping into obstacles others avoided easily. In fact, nowhere do I sense my own immaturity more than when gathered with this family. While I know that’s a good thing, it doesn’t make it any easier to stay on the journey.

I believe everyone has infinite value. I like to see the good in others, to recognize each of them as a gift to me and to our community. I might even greet them as I would Christ, St. Benedict-style. The last will be first. Even limitations are a gift. But it’s often hardest to extend these graces to ourselves, isn’t it? On a good day I can see good in anyone no matter how they’re acting. But myself? I don’t like having weaknesses and limits. I don’t like discerning my gifts by trying. And failing. Publicly.

So when I hear someone saying something I know I should have said two weeks ago… I’m tempted to stop trying. Once again someone has a list of hesitations, carefully thought through, against something I blithely jumped into and went along with. Why does this keep happening? When am I going to learn to listen to that little voice inside me saying something doesn’t feel quite right? When am I going to learn patience?

I like to say I’m naive, but I think sometimes that’s just an excuse for not taking the time to think something through. Because I felt it… that hesitation. It felt like not quite knowing how to respond, not really wanting to commit to anything. The problem was, I didn’t think more about it after the encounter. I forgot about it until she called, wanting to move forward. Since I didn’t have space to stop and think right then, I dove in. I composed a quick email to the whole group, asking how we might do this new thing with this person. Naturally, no one responded.

Now I see… what felt like jealousy is really anger at myself. I’m disappointed that I didn’t listen to my inner voice/conscience/the Spirit/whatever and do what I now know I should have done: think it through. Urgency is often self-imposed. Wait. Breathe. Think it through.

And yet… maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe it’s just one more reminder that I need other people. I’m not an island or a hero. We need each other. I’m a jumper-inner. My friend is a thinker-througher. If it weren’t for folks like me, we might never do anything. If it weren’t for folks like him, we might be doing lots of nothing. We balance each other and are better for it.

May I not bolt when community reveals my weakness. May I give myself space to learn and grow while I give the same space to others.

By Kevin Daum

Generic anti-oppression contemplative activist. Django development pays the bills.

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