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Book Club – The Imitation of Christ Week 6 of 10

January 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

The Imitation of Christ Week 6 of 10

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The Anguish of Envy

He who has received less ought not to become dejected, nor become angry, nor envious of the one who has received more. Rather, he should look to You and praise Your great goodness since You have bestowed Your good portion picture1gifts so freely, so willingly, so lavishly, and without respect of persons.

All good things come from You and, therefore, You are to be praised in all things. 

You know what is best for each of us, and the reason You grant more to one and less to another is not for us to comprehend. this is for You to decide since You alone know each one’s merits.

Therefore, O God, I consider it a great blessing not to have many of those goods that in men’s eyes and in outward appearance call for praise and honor. – The Imitation of Christ, Book III, Chapter 22, p. 109-110.

 

I need to take a deep breath here because thus far I have not considered it a great blessing not to have many of those goods that in men’s eyes and in outward appearance call for praise and honor.

Quite the contrary – I spend a lot more time dejected, angry or envious of the one who has received more.

Yes, I know. Jealousy is an UGLY sin and it does more to destroy our hearts and souls than does anything else.

Here’s where my problems begin. I am a perfectionist. Not a “perfect” perfectionist – a “wanna-be” perfect perfectionist. (Is there any other kind?) The irony is that I WANT to be GREAT at EVERYTHING, but in reality, I’m not particularly good at anything – materially or spiritually. Regardless, in both areas, I find myself comparing my lack of gifts with the beautiful gifts I see in others.

Material Struggles

I spin a lot of plates, but none of them looks particularly fancy. Sometimes I find myself wishing I had at least one piece of gorgeous china that reflected the sun as it spun, like a million tiny mirrors, causing passers-by to stop and stare. (You know – WOW!- look at that amazing wife…perfect mother…fabulous writer…) But no. No Wedgwood here. Just plain white Corelle. And yet, I covet the china of others, and wonder why I have to settle for less.

Perhaps plate-spinning itself is a problem. Sometimes I feel like the Cat in the Hat: “I can hold up the cup and the milk and the cake! I can hold up these books! And the fish on the rake! I can hold the toy ship and a little toy man! And look! With my tail I can hold a red fan…” Well, we all know how things turned out for him!

But no.  Plate-spinning is not the problem.  Apparently, I am the problem.  As I struggle through my juggling act, diving for this plate or stretching for that one, I notice the lady next to me is a professional “dish spinner.” This is the woman who’s written five bestselling books while holding down a full-time job, running a household, and homeschooling her children! I’m sure you’ve met her! She’s the one whose eight children all entered the religious life!

And I think…WHY?! WHY CAN’T I BE LIKE HER?! WHY CAN’T I SPIN MY DISHES BETTER? WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?!

Spiritual Struggles

My RADAR is on high alert as to every flaw and defect in my own character. While that might be considered a good thing in spiritual circles – thinking back to Spiritual Combat here – it’s magnified every time I see someone who shines in areas where I am lacking. My eyes and ears are CONSTANTLY studying those that have received more grace in one area or another so I can emulate their “good” traits. Yes, that could be a positive too; but – here’s the negative – I spend MORE time berating myself than I do actually changing my character to reflect the virtues of others.

Case in point. I was out of town visiting a good friend recently – I know, you’re reading this, M______, so today you get to read how much I think of you – and while we were on our way out the door to her son’s soccer tournament, a really cheap faux pearl necklace I was wearing broke. As soon as the necklace dropped off my neck, she didn’t skip a beat! Right away, she said – with enthusiasm – “Oh! We can stop at the jewelers on our way – I know of one really close and I’ll bet they can fix that for you easily!” When I declined, she assured me that it would be no hassle at all and she’d be more than pleased to do it (knowing she had about 30 minutes to get where she was going, and probably a 20+ minute drive).

This is only one of a thousand examples I could give you of small acts of kindness I’ve experienced from various people over the past month. But I thought about this experience for DAYS!!!! Why? Because the ugly fact is that had the tables been turned, I would have said something profound like, “Bummer!” I KNOW that I would NEVER have even thought of offering to have her necklace fixed.

So why did I think about this for DAYS? Not for any spiritual benefit. Quite the contrary.

When things like this happen, I become Wanda Whiner, asking myself, – WHY IS IT NATURAL FOR SOME PEOPLE TO THINK OF OTHERS FIRST AT ALL TIMES, BUT IT IS NOT NATURAL FOR ME???!!!! And of course, I spend a good amount of time asking God that same question.

In a nutshell, I waste a lot of my life away asking God:

“WHY DID YOU MAKE ME THIS WAY? WHY CAN’T I BE MORE LIKE ____ OR _____?”

How to bring a stop to this insanity that keeps me from achieving the holiness I desire? Thomas à Kempis has it all figured out – PRAISE and GRATITUDE. He’s right. If I were to spend half as much time offering PRAYERS OF PRAISE and THANKSGIVING as I do saying UGGHHHH!, I’d find peace.

And I don’t mean prayers to the other extreme, like those of the Pharisee in the temple: “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity…” I mean prayers that are simply and humbly THANKFUL. Prayers that acknowledge my weakness and God’s glory with gratitude.

Even more importantly, (and more challenging) I need to offer prayers of thanksgiving for all the graces He’s lavished upon others.

I was particularly moved this week by the four choices that à Kempis promises will bring peace and rest (two things which are often lacking in my life):

 

Always strive….to do another’s will rather than your own.
Always choose to have less rather than more.
Always seek the lowest place and be submissive in all things.
Always desire and pray that God’s will be entirely fulfilled in you.

– The Imitation of Christ, p. 111.

 

None of these things can be accomplished by comparing myself to another Catholic, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend or writer. I can do these things only by being grateful for the benefits (or even the lack of benefits) God has seen fit to grant me at this time in my life. Through prayer, humility and surrender, perhaps at some point, I will be able to pray with à Kempis that I consider it a great blessing not to have many of those goods that in men’s eyes and in outward appearance call for praise and honor.

 

Discussion Questions:

1. Do you compare yourself to others?  What can one do to stop that problem in its tracks?

2. Open discussion: Feel free to comment on any topic from this past week's reading.

 

Reading Assignment:

Week 7: Book 3 Ch. 33-43

 

Read more: Previous Book Club Posts

For More Information on the Book Club: http://spiritualdirection.com/csd-book-club

 

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the SpiritualDirection.com book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at pelicansbreast.com

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  • Robert Kraus

    Absolutely I compare myself to others all the time. My biggest thing is travel. I get insanely jealous of those who travel, especially the ones who travel to Europe, the Holy Land, etc, and then show great pictures and rave about how wonderful an experience it was, how spiritually connected they felt. And I, scraping our budget to afford a day trip for my wife and I, seethe.

    I remember when I read that line of Kempis about wanting to have less, it was a hard saying and still is. I feel like there’s some kind of “evil me” inside that I just need to rip out so I won’t have these constant thoughts of who has what and who has more than me. A good reflection for this week.

  • SFrancolini

    A COUPLE OF THINGS HERE. WHEN I FIND MYSELF THINKING THIS WAY, I AM CALLED TO REMEMBER WHAT GIFTS GOD HAS BESTOWED UPON ME AND PERHAPS MY FOCUS ON THE OTHER PERSON IS A NUDGE OF A DESIRE UNFULFILLED ON MY PART. IF I AM CO-CREATING WITH GOD, THE LIGHT I SEE IN ANOTHER WHICH STIRS JEALOUSY CAN BE TURNED AROUND AND THEN ASKED, WHAT AM I MISSING IN THE GREAT CALL OF THE LORD TO FULFILL HIS WILL WHILE I WALK THIS LAND AS LONG AS I HAVE, WHERE AM I CALLED TO CO-CREATE WITH HIM. USUALLY, WHAT I SEE IN ANOTHER, THAT BOTHERS ME THE MOST IS THE UNREALIZED DREAM. A DREAM GOD HAS PLACED THERE. SO, IT IS IN THOSE TIMES, I HAVE A WAKW UP CALL. I TUEN FROM BEATING MYSELF UP AND LOOK TO THE GRACE IN THE MOMENT THAT GOD IS DOING SOMETHING GOOD WITHIN ME.
    THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN IS THAT WHERE I SHARE THE GIFTS IN THE KINGDOM AND SOMEONE ELSE IS EXCELLING AT LIVING OUT THEIR GIFTS IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD, I MUST ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR FIAT OF YES TO GOD AND THEREFORE ACTUATING THEIR GFTS INTO THE WORLD AND THEN HUMBLE MYSELF AT THE SAME TIME. LIKE RAISING A CHILD, WE DON’T ALWAYS GIVE IN TO THE CHILD WHEN THEY WANT SOMETHING. ONLY GOD KNOWS WHEN IT’S BEST TO OPEN OR SHUT. LESSONS LEARNED THROUGHOUT LIFE.

  • nannymar

    Thank you Robert Kraus for a really good commmentary. I think another helpful solution to the problem of jealousy which I have as well is a good self-assessment. Where am I in life, what have I allready done, thanks be to God. And that is a good answer. God is the Giver we are the receivers. I thank you Lord for ‘my’ gifts and am grateful for those who have other types of gifts that I did not receive but can marvel at their reception and working out those gifts which ultimately are for Your Glory, not mine.

  • Jeanette

    I’ve pondered the question myself over many years why God has given me mediocre and sometimes good natural gifts (never excellent) and I somehow knew that this was a blessing. Try as I may to excel, I can only be good, not excellent, in everything I put my hand to. Maybe if I was super excellent in anything, I would become proud…and God knows that about me. It certainly is a good way to keep you humble! I look at it this way…God is looking after my soul and He knows what is best for me. So, every once in a while, when I think on this, I end up thanking God. So, like you have posted, “I will be able to pray with a Kempis that I consider it a great blessing not to have many of those goods that in men’s eyes and in outward appearance call for praise and honor.” God bless you!

  • Envy…I struggle a lot with this one… with classmates who get high grades, with people who are well liked and have many friends….
    But most of all, when I read about the saints…when I read about how much they loved God, and all the endured out of love for Him…and I see how I struggle trying to be good over the most trivial things each day… My spiritual director me I should pray for the saints to inspire me not make me envious. One night I had a real jealous fit. I begged Mama Mary to help me. Later, when I was tempted again, my conscience told me to be grateful, to see how much God has given me and to be grateful. Amazingly, I stopped being jealous and felt at peace, seeing all the unmerited blessings and graces He has given me all my life. Thank you Mama Mary!Another time, He told me that I get so jealous is because I don’t trust Him enough. I see the good He has done for others, and don’t believe Him when He tells me that He will make me holy too. It really is hard to believe, but if He has promised this then surely it will come true!One last thing, when I read about then, and see the wonderful things He has done for them. I should think of it as a foretaste of things to come. Not in exactly the same way of course. But of someday, being as close to God as they are. It seems to incredible to be true! And I can’t say I’ve been able to do this. But I guess what is most good is what is most true. And so yes, with the help of His grace, I am learning to be inspired and encouraged instead of jealous and discouraged. Not always succeeding, but learning… Thank You Lord! 

  • Thank you for your insight and honesty. I too, struggle with envy of how others do it! I know better and yet I struggle. Only at this time in my life, I seem to be jealous of the time to be free of responsibilities – and it’s not happening as a member of the sandwich generation. I too need to pray for a grateful heart, to strive to put others first, have less and be open to God’s will in my life. I pray more now, and trust that God will navigate my life through the waves of hard things, such as death of beloved family members, caretaking of older parents or watching my children as young adults solve their problems with choices they make and I have no control over. Surrender and humility, gratitude and praise, trust and God’s grace, and fellowship with others as we walk this spiritual journey together, all for the glory of God.

  • DavidElijah

    Perhaps its a paradigm shift in thinking…If we focus on being who we are, a child of God living your Divine filiation, and living the prayer, Lord take all that I have as gift back to you, and give me what I need to please you and fulfill your will and purpose. Sanctify my life so I may glorify you in it! And when we see the gifts He’s bestowed upon others look at it communally in the mystical body of Christ, as we are all given different gifts to be used to build up the body. When we see this rejoice and glorify God in it. And most importantly we must pray for each other and all the members that God completes the work He has begun in us for souls for love goes out in search of the lost. And His “Love can be returned, but by Love alone.” St. John of the Cross

  • carl641

    Hi Vicki, good subject. I struggle with envy. I think
    envy is an outgrowth of pride. Pride manifests itself so many ways in my life:
    the unkind thoughts I have about others, anger and resentments about life
    situations over which I have no control, feelings of superiority, feelings of
    inadequacy when I don’t measure up to others or some internal standard I have
    for myself, and what is the source of all this? Thinking more highly of myself
    than I should.  

    For me at least, pride makes me think that I should be
    perfect, when in reality I am ‘poor, blind and naked’ and don’t even realize
    it. Like anything else, the first step for me is recognizing that I have a
    problem. Once I do that I can try and do something about it or at least
    understand and accept. I have to remember that it’s a marathon and not a 100
    yard dash and it’s probable I will struggle my whole time on earth. I have to
    accept that. The act of accepting failure can be a real blow to pride. I’m not
    suggesting that it’s not possible to change. I’m saying, in my experience, it
    doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process and a struggle. Failing is often the
    best way to learn as many have observed. It can also lead to humility and
    compassion. The main thing is to keep running with your eye fixed on the prize.

    Being thankful helps me. Calling to mind those situations
    where the Lord has acted in my life cause me to be thankful for what he’s done in
    my life and that helps me appreciate what I have and I am. This helps me with
    acceptance. I’ve learned that I have to trust that ‘all things work for the
    good.’ Often its only after the fact that I’m able to understand the purpose of
    something.

    The four points you list by TK are good practical ways to
    start to deal with the manifestations of pride. Looking for ways to be aware of
    and to practice them in my daily life will help I think.

  • I have found that, most of the time, if we are looking at someone and thinking that they are so good at everything and such great examples of Christianity, and how we wish we were more like them, we probably don’t know them very well.  I have experienced this over the years when making new acquaintances.  At first the new friend seems so good at this or that but, as the friendship grows, the shortcomings become more apparent.  In other words, the person is allowed to step off the pedestal we put them on and become a real part of our lives.  Obviously, we don’t always get to know people that well, but it helped me to always remember  that this person is no more perfect than I am.  She may have some gifts I don’t have, but I have some she doesn’t have.  And thank goodness!  Like this Sunday’s reading, we are all part of the Body of Christ, different, but none more important than the rest.

    The part of this week’s reading that touched me most was in Chap. 30 – the reminder that when God gives us something it is still His.  It’s so easy to feel attached to things – especially our loved ones – and forget that they too were gifts freely given to us for the time that Our Lord allows.  We must treasure every moment of every day given to us and be ever thankful, never taking His gifts for granted.

    Deo Juvante, Jen

  • ruthleal

    I struggled with envy for many years. In the last few months, THROUG THE GRACE OF GOD, something has changed within me. I find myself content. I wait for the Lord to act concerning all my needs. And he has been ever so GRACIOUS AND MERCIFUL. I literally live on miracles every day. From the simplist thing to great things. He truly has called me to depend on him for everything. I don’t deserve this. Praise God.

  • Scott Kallal

    I think everyone here has nailed down what to do already. Be the man or woman God made you to be and be happy about who you are and the gifts God has given you… while striving to become all that you were meant to be, of course. Life is a balance. At the foundation of the spiritual life is gratitude and praise, just like Vicki (and Thomas!) said. At the same time this gratitude and praise are to be the launching pad for what Teresa of Avila calls our “great desires” to grow, our magnanimity. We are meant for more. We are made to grow. That’s built into us. I will share this one thing with you all. As part of my daily “bookends,” my morning offering and nightly examination of conscience, I always start by asking: What am I grateful for? Sometimes I start out with, “Nothing.” Then I ask: What could I be grateful for if I wanted to grateful for something? “Well, how about my health…” and then I go on from there. I’ve found that the more I cultivate gratitude, the more I “naturally” (in a supernatural sense) grow in magnanimity. And of course where virtues reign in a soul, there’s no room for vice – not that I’m perfect! – but it definitely helps to keep those inner weeds down.

    God bless,

    Fr. Scott, AVI
    Apostles of the Interior Life

  • Vicki said:  I am a perfectionist. You have a lot of company, Vicki, and I know what a burden that is, because, of course, we can do nothing perfect. It all started for me when I was a young Mother (over 50 years ago). I couldn’t figure out how other Mothers could keep house better than me when I was trying so hard. All these years later, there are always those who keep house better than me, who can serve up a gourmet meal, and whose (grown) children are more successful than mine. Those material, worldly struggles are behind me. I now compete with myself and at my age it’s a losing battle.

    My present challenge is my desire to grow in holiness. My halo is so tarnished that only God can buff it to a shine. I now compare myself to the Saints and their writings. I often wonder why some of them started quite young with such lofty aspirations to holiness, at an age when I was totally secular. Why didn’t God make me that way?  How wonderful it would have been to hunger after God my whole life through. But that is what aKempis is teaching me to avoid – being unhappy that I haven’t received graces comparable to others.  He tells me not to grieve that others have received more grace, and greater benefits, but to rejoice and give praise to His holy name because of the way He divides His gifts among his people. I struggle to be glad for those more blessed than me, proving my envy. Rather I should seek to be in His perfect Will, and be content with that. 

    • Scott Kallal

      Maryellen, praise God for your great desire to be holy. A word of great consolation from Teresa of Avila says: “God, in one moment, can wipe away all our moments of unfaithfulness and give us even more than we would have had before.” May our Lord grant you such a grace for your huge desires (which are a sign of humility according to this same saint).

      • Fr. Scott, thank you for the quote from Teresa. I love the wisdom of the Saints. I also like your thoughts on gratitude and Praise, and our desire to grow, being meant for more.  I appreciate your comments about your “bookends”: very helpful.

        • Scott Kallal

          You’re welcome MaryEllen. May God continue to bless you on your journey…

  • Becky Ward

    It’s a difficult task for sure, not to compare ourselves with others, but it is not impossible. Envy is not one of my worst areas of sin, I would usually note other people’s abilities and gifts in a way that simply continues to prove that I have no value, but comparison WAS a big problem for me!!
     
    The DJM formation has been a great help to me in this regard because one of the areas we focus on is that God has made us as unique individuals. If we are constantly looking at other souls and what God has given them…..then we make it much harder to see what He has given US!
     
    Vicki – The ‘perfect’ mom or wife is an illusion!!! Inside each one of us, unless we have developed a deep and lasting relationship with the Lord, and are focused on pleasing Him alone, is someone searching….and those women you look at and admire……may very well be looking at you and thinking that your life is perfect.
     
    I have a sticky note on my wall that says, “Who are you trying to please?”
     
    Here is my “Perfectionist’s Prayer”
     
    “As you have instructed Lord, I will allow myself to be less than perfect today, and I will extend the same courtesy to others, as I seek only to do your Holy Will through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”

    I prayed this every day for several years – now I don’t need it as much, but because my perfectionism stemmed from a fear of not being loved, the Lord had me add this last part to the prayer.

    “I acknowledge that I am not worthless. I am dearly loved, and cherished by my Father in heaven!”

    • Thank you for this prayer! Maybe it’s something I should start praying as well.

    • Scott Kallal

      Awesome prayer Becky! Thank you. I’ll be stealing this for some of my directees… ok, borrowing.

      • Becky Ward

        🙂 A priest with humor and devotion…….that’s a very good thing.

        Thank you for being a priest Fr. Scott!!

        • Scott Kallal

          Becky, thank you again for this great prayer. I look forward to reading more form you on the forum in the future…

    • Vicki

      Becky – I’m going to type this up and hang it on my mirror – thank you!

  • talby

    Good evening everyone…. Thanks Vicki for your thought-provoking comments… I will say that I definitely struggle with “self-love” that Kempis writes in Chapter 27 – “Realise that self-love hurts your more than anything in the world.” I think that everyone covered this self-love in the form of perfectionism, envy, and pridefulness. I work daily on reducing ‘self’ and conforming above all else to Christ. I must begin again every day. Kempis also wrote in Chapter 32 of self-denial where Christ tells him “Son, you cannot have perfect freedom unless you entirely give up self…. and Kempis replies “Lord, this is no one day’s work, nor child’s play: indeed in this brief word is set all the perfection of the religious.” Amen I say in reply to this….and the more ferverently I pray for grace!

    This past Spring, I was introduced to the Litany of Humility… there are times when I pray it often and then there are times when I “want” to pray it but somehow don’t get around to it. It’s a powerful Litany and I would recommend to anyone who wishes to reduce ‘self’ to the lowest on the list as Kempis so advises and as Christ so desires of us.

    God Bless,
    Terrie

  • $1650412

    Vicki, you were so ‘channelling’ me when you wrote this- Becky can testify. 
    (For the record, I am SO impressed with you, Book Club presenter, blog post writer, marathon runner, mother of many, teacher, homemaker, chauffer, organized girl, etc. So whatever you are not seeing, the rest of us are duly glorifying God for the work we are benefitting from through the Amazing Vicki Burbach- humble, real, and pursuing God with all her heart! I admire you!!!!)
    Something that helps me alot in all this- and I suffer SO much from a host of really boring insecurities and inadequacies- is to continually return to developing in my understanding and focus on how much God loves me- Jesus’ personal passionate love for me- about which I am virtually completely and continually clueless. I hearken back to the first book we did here for help there, right? Trustful Surrender-Then, I am actually more aware of, or I try to be more aware of, how I love others, because that is all I can really control that is unique to me– and it might not look stupendous, it might not even be regarded by the immediate object or recipient, but if I do this because it is the actuation of Christ in me, then I am more authentically who I am meant to be- and that makes me strong in the only thing I can be strong in- me. For some reason, for me, this kind of sweeps away the performance fog and funk I spend so much time spinning my dissatisfaction-with-myself wheels around in. Nothing escapes Jesus’ notice… and when we give ourselves to others in self-donation in whatever form that takes– for one it might be those compassionate acts of service, for another it might be those invitations to play tennis, or the companionship in providing a pathway or counsel of solution for someone floundering– the ways in which each one of us is created to reflect the love of God are as multi-faceted and as critical to the whole greater good, as we are meaningful to Christ. Now, the corollary to this, is that I have to relinquish myself to being loved, admired, respected, regarded, befriended etc. by whomever God places a sincere affection for me in their heart, if He inspires it and reigns over it- then its desirable; but if is inspired by some other standard of ‘appealing whatever’, then it can be very changeable, and maybe not something I can afford to apply an consuming effort to maintain.  So, I am trying to make peace with those aspirations about striving, seeking, choosing, and desiring…as challenging as they are to verbalize in the Litany of Humility…and bringing everything back to giving glory to God by being as authentically me as I can be in loving others as profoundly personally and meaningfully as I can in Christ. (Just don’t ask for a scorecard on all this from my kids :o)…It’s a work in progress, accent on the WORK-in–p-r–o—g—-r—-e—-s—–s part…)

    • Becky Ward

      AMEN!!

    • I thank God often the He is not finished with me yet!

  • novice01

    Vicki, that is such a good reflection. I suffer with the same sin of envy and jealousy because for as long as I can remember growing up , I was expected to be “perfect” . Being the oldest , I was given a lot of responsibilities by my parents–taking care of younger siblings and expected to excel in school . I felt I was loved by my parents when I brought back excellent report cards and admired by my classmates and teachers –receiving praises and making the honor rolls. Of course there were times that I couldn’t keep it up and I would be down in the dumps, feeling unloved and envious of the other kids who got higher grades that I did. This quest for excellence and perfection spilled all over my life situation–my relationships, my work my state in life as wife, mother , daughter , friend, sister , etc. Being a perfectionist also made me scrupolous. I am so hard on myself , but worse I am hard on people around me. So I am very grateful for the perfectionist’s prayer that Becky shared . I found that prayer resonating in my heart esp. the last sentence, about being loved and cherished by my Father in heaven. I will also use the sticker ” who are you trying to please ” Thanks to all who shared , I don’t feel so alone in my struggle. God bless!!! 

    • CeciliaMarks

      Thank you for writing. I truly understand what you wrote. As the oldest of seven children, I was told to help w/my brothers and sisters but not to be bossy or pushy. A ten year old does not have those skills leading one to perfectionism and jealousy….

    • Vicki

      Oldest child here, too – boy – now I feel sorry for my oldest son:)!

  • AD Witbrodt

     I am constantly reminded of the verse “to those who are given much, much is expected.” It always gives me pause because I include myself among the average, good but not exceptional, ambitious but not achieving, prideful but not too arrogant, struggling for humility so that I am able to see with the eyes of Christ.

    It seems I am in a place where I am trying to make better decisions concerning my pursuits. In the past every single “opportunity” appeared to be something that I was supposed to be seized. Most “opportunities” are just that opportunities more like temptations. I get so focused on the “opportunity” that I forget life, no perspective, no wisdom, no discernment, just blind pursuit. And I find in accomplishing the goal that it is truly empty. It is more like the journey is the goal so I should pay attention along the way.

    Envy, for me, can be an incentive because I read where Teresa of Avila was envious of those who loved God more than herself. It depends on of what we are envious. If I am envious of virtue, then is this wrong? If I am envious of someone’s gift, is this wrong? Is it not how we respond to this envy? It almost seems that envy is a passion. It should never be given its own head but evaluated and discerned. Should I not be more disciplined in following the Lord? Should I not be more recollected and attentive to my God? Should I not rejoice in the gifts given to others? And rejoice that I can recognize that it is their gift and not mine? Is there a “holy” envy? Or am I misusing the term?

    I heard someone say once that “the perfect is the enemy of the good”. It took me a long time to understand it because there is a perfection which is prideful, self-centered, and self-justifying, exclusive. Words…a limitation in themselves. I like the prayer that goes ” Thank you God for not making me rich so that I would be tempted to forget You, and not making me so poor that I would be tempted to steal.”.

    On with pursuing salvation in fear and trembling…..

    • Becky Ward

      I love “Catholic Culture”. Here’s what the definition of envy is:

      “Sadness or discontent at the excellence, good fortune, or success of another person. It implies that one considers oneself somehow deprived by what one envies in another or even that an injustice has been done. Essential to envy is this sense of deprivation. consequently it is not merely sadness that someone else has some desirable talent or possession, nor certainly the ambition to equal or surpass another person, which can be laudable emulation. It is not the same as jealousy, which implies an unwillingness to share one’s own possessions.

      Envy is a sin against charity and, though serious in itself, allows of degrees of gravity depending on whether fully consented to and how important is the object envied. The most serious sin of envy is sadness at the supernatural gifts or graces that another has received from God, i.e., to envy sanctity. (Etym. Latin invidia; from invidere, to look askance.) ”

      I believe that the term you use, “holy envy” is where we see the gifts and virtues of others and they “inspire” us to become more holy ourselves. (I do not know if it is actually a theologically correct term or not, but I do understand what you mean. 🙂 )

  • judeen

      the lie,, others are loved by God more than me… the lie… they are given a better part than me.. and most have a more important job from God than me….
            lies we tell our selves… that the devil loves… each 1 of us made perfect as God wanted us to be made… each 1 Jesus would of died for on the cross if we were the only 1s…. we each have a special job, no one else can do for God… and our faith is more important than anyone elses.. because it is ours…           I taught my kids about name brands.. how people put a name brand on something , just to get more money from those who are dumb enough to fall for it.. they are not made better.. usually cheaper.. way cheaper…..  to be cond into beleifs , manipulated , and used by the devil and others to envy, be jealous.. be unsatified…. he did that to eve, and others in the bible …. to make unrest….. and sin against God…  we live in a journey.. we cant know everything,, but as we live , we need less,, want less …. our need are to be happy, right now.. for you do not know what tommorrow brings..  and the need to love God more grows… being satified with life is a gift , I think… a peace inside , given to us by God.. the answer is God.. for God will give us more than what our wildest dreams could think of …

    • Victoria Campbell

      Very profound! Unrest, is my downfall.  Always waiting for the next vacation, retirement etc.  Well guess what, God now has my attention that every day is a precious gift and I am called to give thanks always and to use my time wisely! 

  • LizEst

    For me again, age and the grace of God has mellowed some issues like this one that used to bother me more than it does now. Not being deserving of them to begin with, I’m happy with the gifts the Lord has blessed me with. They are more than I can handle. Why be desirous or envious of more? Why compare myself to someone else, knowing that the visible and invisible cross(es) each person bears, I may not even be able to budge? God meets us where we are. And, when we meet Him in heaven, we shall have so much more than we can imagine here on earth.

    I don’t know what stops jealousy or envy in its tracks. Focus on Christ and our final end is a help, so is prayer. I believe we really need to take a close look at the root sins that Dan and Fr. John talk about in “Navigating the Interior Life” in order to get a better idea of where these issues come from. Sometimes they have such a hold on us that it’s all we can do not to act on them.

    As to the business of offering to have a necklace fixed, some people are raised like that. Some are not, but they practice it unless it looks like second nature. So, the solution to that is to practice things like that. It will stretch and exercise your mind (and those of your children) to always be putting the other person first (what we Christians are supposed to be doing anyway). And, when you find someone doing or having something better than you, complement them, ask them about it and about themselves…and be open and non-judgmental about their answers. You may find an opening with which to extend Christ’s love to them in a way they have never known it before.

    God bless you, Vicki. I look forward to your posts every week. Thank you for your wonderful writing.

  • Thank you, Vicki.  Reading some of your responses leaves this old gal in some fog. However, in everything and every facet of my life, my Credo has been “God never Creates  Duplicates”.  I am unique and all I need to do is strive to discern His Will each day and then pray to Him to give me Grace and the Strength to fulfill that Will.  Over and above that Prayer, I pray to Him that He helps me to become the woman He created me to be, calling on the Holy Mother of God to intercede and pray for me daily.

    • Vicki

      Mary, 
      Funny – I tell my children that they are unique and irreplaceable all the time – you’d think I’d realize it applies to me, too.  Thanks for the reminder:)

  • Oh, Yes!!! and Precious Divine Truths like the following surely lift up my spirits and gives me the Hope that if I only co-operate with Him, His Will will be fulfilled in my life, here and hereafter:

    “Unconditional Love.

     In an unbelievably intimate and loving way, Christ chooses to give himself freely to us regardless of our condition. We can approach Christ at communion weakened, saddened, fatigued, confused, or bored, but because our Savior loves us so much, he chooses to give freely of himself no matter what our response.”

  • Victoria Campbell

    I would say that the greatest area of my life that I tend to compare myself to others relates to my children.  I would say unequivocally that raising them has been such a challenge for me and I am forever berating myself for my failures and comparing myself to others in this regard.  All of my children have struggled in some way in school by not achieving anywhere near their academic potential.  I look at my friends and neighbor’s children with their stunning academic records and their children’s internal self discipline and study habits and I feel envious.  Also with my one daughter, there was always the discipline issues to the point where I was finally asked to remove her in her Senior year from the Catholic school she was attending. Although I am sure that my husband and I have not been the “perfect” parents I know we do better than many.  Here I go again comparing and feeling a sense of entitilement. 

    With what is going on in my present life confronting a potentially life threatening issue (possible breast cancer), I have felt even prior to this a significant shift in my spiritual understanding.  Reading this book and the last and many but not all sections of Journal of a Soul, I have come to be open to the idea that  perhaps these challenges have served some benefit.  Certainly, they have served to work toward my humility by putting aside my need for recognition and consolation as to how I am a good parent and instead at times replacing it with what feels like shame but may actually be something for my benefit spiritually.  I think the 27th chapter of this week’s reading actually sums it up quite well.
     “If you seek this or that, if you wish to be in this place or that place, to have more ease or pleasure, you will never rest or be free from care, for some defect is found in everything and everywhere someone will vex you. To obtain and multiply earthly goods, then, will not help you, but to despise them and root them out of your heart will aid.  This understand is true not only of money and wealth, but of ambition for honor and desire for empty praise, all of which will pass away with this world.” Could this actually be speaking to me? As I said, I feel myself changing in ways I could never have foreseen.  I have not once said of my present situation why me?  All these wonderful spiritual treasures have thus far served to make me realize that suffering may serve a very powerful purpose and I should thank God for sending me this trial.  Here’s hoping that this new found spiritual resolve will hold up! 

    Although this post will be long, I find much food for thought in Thomas Kempis words contained in the 29th-30th chapters as I am waiting for my turn to have an appointment with a surgeon next week. These words could be my own prayer, “Give me patience, Lord even now.  Help me, my God, and I will not be afraid however much I may be distressed..”  I keep hearing God telling me every time I lose my resolve to a panic attack that fear is not of God! 

    Starting with Chapter 30, I hear what I know I need to hear from God, “My child I am the Lord who gives you strength in the day of trouble .  Come to me when all is not well with you.  Your tardiness in turning to prayer is the greatest obstacle to heavenly consolation, for before you pray earnestly to Me, you first seek many comforts and take pleasure in outward things. Thus all things are of little profit to you until you realize that I am the one Who saves those who trust in Me and that outside of Me there is no worthwhile hope or any useful counsel or lasting remedy.” I think finally I am starting to get it.  All those struggle with the kids constantly complaining to friends, hours trying to find the right “help” for this or that situation with my kids somehow I failed to consistently turn to the one who truly has the power to help me through whatever comes my way in this life. As I said over the past few months, as other problems have come up, and they always do, I have been more inclined to start with prayer less focused on complaining to others looking for solutions that never provided answers in the past.  So here I am faced with this health challenge, do I start on the Internet for answers or turn to God?  Easy answer and one that is giving me a peace that I have not often experienced in times of crisis.  

    Thanking God for this wonderful spiritual resource that is this Book Club! 

    • LizEst

      May God bless you with His grace, His comfort and His felt presence as you go through this trial with your health. My prayers for you.

    • $1650412

      Victoria, this is such a beautiful and faith filled post! Obviously you have a deep spiritual life and great humility. It breaks my heart to hear of your suffering- but I really want to tell you that no matter what you think your personal situation might look like compared to others in this moment, there is so much more to what is going on everywhere in good and bad than we can see on the surface. What seems amazing in one person’s life on any given day- glory to God! But don’t be surprised if that changes- because none of us is getting out of this alive and no one gets to heaven by way of easy street. In fact the people who might seem to be closer to Jesus are often the ones whose trials we would all give body parts to never have to endure.
       I can assure you, from where I am in my life, with 13 kids, a few of them turning out pretty well (grown up and married or engaged and employed) in this given moment, and the jury being completely out of some of the others, and sometimes on even me- that it is really important this lesson you have learned in your trials– to FIX, and I do mean completely with intentional focus- our eyes on Jesus Christ and on Him alone. He has made so many promises to us personally- and He is looking to us to show Him the love He deserves by pouring our confidence into those promises- in spite of every storm and sorrow. 
      These are the ones I think of off the top of my head- Philippians 1:6 “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it…” From John 6:39- and this is the will of the Father who sent me, that I lose none of those He has given me but that I raise them up at the last day..” and from Isaiah 49:25 “… I will contend with those who contend with you and your children I will save…” 
      I can tell just in what you have shared here that God is very close to you and you have a great ministry in your life in pursuing Him and orienting your life on Him as you navigate these challenges- and this witness will change people’s lives for salvation. 
      We are all crying out to the Lord for help- none of us is self-satisfied, and that must really please Him… it makes me stop and think alot how beautiful the hearts expressing themselves here are to me, in observing this pursuit of God….and I think we must need to let go of the worries we have over not hitting the target– and rather immerse ourselves in love and gratitude to God for His amazing grace meted out to each of us in such breathtakingly beautiful ways. 
      In contrast to so many other online blog combox experiences, this really is like strolling through an exquisite garden in the spiritual life- and who would have thought that insecurity,inadequacy, and even envy, reformed in the light of God’s love could be so endearing, loveable, and desirable to Him above all other treasures?

      • Victoria Campbell

        Thank you it is so amazing to be surrounded by so many caring individuals and prayerful people!  I am truly blessed! 🙂 

      • CeciliaMarks

        Jo, what a wonderful sense of humor you have. When I read..” In fact the people who might seem to be closer to Jesus are often the
        ones whose trials we would all give body parts to never have to endure.” I had to chuckle out loud. In your our last paragraph an image of a garden with many of our confessed weeds of sins being transformed into beautiful flowers under a feeling of peace and tranquility, thank you….

    • Vicki

      Praise be to God for you, Victoria.  Your comments are so filled with love and humility – by opening your heart to us, you’ve been an amazing example to us all.  I will certainly keep you in my prayers!  

  • CeciliaMarks

    Well, Vicki, this one certainly struck home with me!!! Everything you wrote was an echo of the battles that have taken place in my mind. More so in my younger days did I struggle not to grab another’s graces thru jealousy because I really didn’t understand the use of spiritual gifts.

    Many years ago I gave workshops for teachers. It would take me an hour for set up, and hour and a half to present and another hour to “take down” One day after presenting two of these workshops, I was in the process of taking down and cleaning the room all the while mentally grumbling that everyone else had the opportunity to attend the closing ceremonies and a Mass and I couldn’t. The words were like a “poor me” broken record running thru my mind as to how I probably bored the participants and now having to pack everything and I was tired. It was a true Martha/Mary moment. In the midst of these mental thoughts another voice broke in saying, “Are you doing this for your glory, Cecilia, or for Mine?” I stopped in my tracks as to what I was doing. I was called to be servant and teacher and given the gifts to do so. “I must decrease, that He may increase.”

    Fr. Faricy, SJ stated during a presentation that each spiritual gift we are given is form-fitted like a personal glove for our use. No two gifts are exactly alike. In addition, we are given only those gifts that we need for our mission. Vicki, I’m in awe that you blog and home-school your children–activities I’m not called to do.

    On a final note: our wedding “china” was the upper level of Corelleware. We chose it for its simplicity, cost and durability for use during our married life. After 40+ years we have never had to replace a single piece. Everyone may be “dish spinners” but maybe its our decision as to the type of dishes we spin. I thank you for sharing your gifts w/so many of us….

    • $1650412

      Paper plates here! Love this post, thanks Cecilia!

      • CeciliaMarks

        Jo, sooo funny! You brought a wide smile to my face and heart…;>)

      • LizEst

        ; )))

      • Vicki

        I love this conversation!  I’ve been smiling every time I’ve checked in – brief reading this week due to lots of family activities.  Still – what a “family” we have here!  You guys are great!:)

  • BeckitaMaria

    I gratefully acknowledge that I’m spiritually enriched by the sharing, the wisdom and the holiness which radiates from this group.

    In my woundedness from childhood, I struggled in a huge battle with perfectionism. I also learned my low serotonin level was another contributing factor.

    How to stop self-comparing in its tracks? A wisdom saying from my days of therapy which I frequestly use is: “Notice what you do and don’t beat yourself up.”  This led me to the practice of treating myself with the compassion and kindness I would grant a little child faced with my dilemma.

    As I have continued to practice this reaction to my own misery, I have pondered the second commandment to love my neighbor AS myself, not INSTEAD of myself.  This, in turn, has brought me to the consideration that allowing the wise part of me, (Jesus dwelling in my own heart) to embrace, forgive, heal and strengthen the sinful, deficient parts of me, (that wee, developing child) does indeed open channels of God’s grace freeing me to make better choices.

    Vicky, I continue to appreciate your gifts which you share here! 

  • Ticklebee

    I have a mental picture I use when I start comparing myself. I’m in front of or on an escalator heading up into heaven. The escalator however, is going down. It requires steady work to progress at all, and if you stop or slow too much you will end up at the bottom again. Other people are in front of their own escalators, but where they are on the escalator is hidden. I can’t compare where I am with the true position of anyone else, so I kind of sigh and focus just on my elevator.

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