I can be a real jerk sometimes.
I acted like a jerk in elementary school, high school, college, law school, and on into adulthood. The way I’m a jerk might look different now (I’m no longer the kid who thought he was always getting picked on and then looked for someone to pick on himself), but I’m still a jerk sometimes.
What brought this dismal self-reflection to mind? Catching myself being a jerk again.
I don’t handle success well. Other people’s success, that is.
It’s not everyone’s success I struggle with. If someone wins an Academy Award or scores the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl, more power to them. The success I have trouble with is people who achieve something I want to achieve. Whether at work, writing or even the things I get involved in at church, I’ve seen it.
I can be petty that way.
I can be a real jerk.
The thing about this resentment is that no one sees it but me. I’ve learned to mask it. There’s no sense raining on someone else’s parade, so I congratulate them and try to be supportive. But inside I might be up to my eyeballs in resentment.
One odd thing I’ve noticed is that I don’t react this way all the time with every success. In fact, it’s more likely that I don’t react this way to someone else’s success. But it does happen.
Consider these experiences I had with a couple friends involved in the same thing I do:
- One friend told me of recent success, and my immediate reaction was to wonder why I wasn’t achieving the same level of success. Wondering wasn’t the only thing going through my mind. I actually found myself resenting that success, thinking why her and not me, as if this resentment was going to do me any good. I realized what I was doing and felt nauseous. Not a figure of speech type nauseous, but really sick to my stomach type nauseous that lasted all night.
- A couple days later another friend told me of recent success in the exact same area. My immediate reaction was to be extremely pleased and proud that people recognized her talent and wanted to help her.
Two friends, two similar successes, all within the same week. One I resented and one I celebrated.
What’s Wrong with Me?
So I’m a jerk. A petty, small-minded jerk.
I’m not supposed to act this way.
Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. … And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. (2 Timothy 2:22, 24, emphasis added.)
A servant of God should not be resentful; that’s easy to understand, if not always do. You know what stings in that passage, though? The earlier part that resentment is one of “the evil desire of youth”.
Wow. The Bible says I’m immature when I’m acting like a petty, small-minded resentful jerk. I think the Bible’s right.
Paul wrote that passage from a Roman prison cell in a letter to his young friend Timothy. He wrote another letter from that same cell to his friends in Philippi where he showed the right way to enjoy the success of others:
[They] preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. (Philippians 1:17-18.)
Paul looked at people who were not only achieving what he couldn’t achieve, but were doing it in order to make trouble for him. His response? To rejoice in their success.
So my prayer is that I will rejoice in the success of others who serve our Lord, that my petty resentment will be left behind as an immature remnant tossed onto the pile of other sins I need to let go of.
Because who wants to be a jerk?
[Update: David Hayward created an infographic that covers how this looks in A Day In The Life Of A Christian Blogger. Funny stuff.]