This season of life I’ve been so fortunate/blessed/lucky to have a number of women come into my life and let me be their friend. When I leave their presence, I’m charged. Ready. Full. While likely true about most of my friends through life, I’ve noticed these recent friends to share a similar feature: they don’t live like it’s a contest.
Don’t get me wrong, these are some strong women. Their non-compete clause isn’t one of lying down in submission. They don’t abstain from competition because they don’t feel they’re worthy of the game. They’re fiercely strong – at work, at home and in their community. They’ve climbed and excelled and know they’re worthy of inclusion*. They’re brilliant. They’re gifted. And they know it has nothing to do with me.
It’s. So. Freeing. They make friendship roomier. Welcoming.
One of my first direct interactions with one of these friends came online. We were acquaintances, with shared friends and she had read a few things I had posted, that kind of thing. In an online conversation she made a passing remark, saying “I can recognize a game changer.” It wasn’t an empty complement meant to bloat my ego – she simply wanted me to do my thing. She wants all of us to do our thing. She has the humility to know she cannot do all of the things and that life is better when we each do our thing, beautifully. Me doing my thing makes her doing her thing better. It’s not a competition of the things.
It’s this kind of humble confidence that sets me free.
Glennon has posted before about how there’s more than enough goodness to go around. And these ladies live like it. They believe that my happiness will not shortchange their own. None of us feel as if we have perfect lives. Yet we recognize we do have good lives. That sweet spot between perfect and good is what we’re aiming for, friends. In that place, we’re each striving for better while not discounting the current good.
Because we recognize that the striving for better isn’t a contest but rather a cooperative effort, the goodness is multiplied.
One of my absolute favorite and life-giving passages in the scriptures is in Galatians 5:19-23, but I love the way Eugene Peterson writes it. In it he says:
[box] It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all of the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness, trinket gods and magic show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on… But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.[/box]
The belief that another person’s good life is an impediment to our own is a lie from the pit. It’s not the way of God’s kingdom.
Paul finishes the section by instructing us:
[box] Since this is the life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original. [/box]
May we stop striving after the good someone else has in her life and begin by accepting and loving our own. And may we bless and encourage those to continue seeking good. To do her thing as we do our thing because it’s not a competition of the things. May we live knowing that there is enough blessing to go around – nay, there is more than “we can ever ask for or imagine.” We’ll only begin to start experiencing it once we open the floodgates for others..
*Actually this isn’t true. I also cannot help but note that all of these women have a strong feminist viewpoint, thus they come at the world believing they are worthy because they are human, which changes the game. The fact that they are brilliant and gifted, I believe, stems from this basic belief in their own worth.