Friday, April 4, 2008

26. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.

Good morning! A wonderful meditation from Jeanine:

I have not opened my personal/spiritual journal in quite a while, but I used to write almost every day. If I had been writing recently, maybe I would have said . . .

March 30, 2008 (Third Sunday in Lent – Veneration of the Cross)

Dear Papa,

I’ve been Orthodox almost a year now and I don’t know who I am anymore. It was much easier for me to be an evangelical Protestant. When I compare myself to the other women in my church, I feel like such a spiritual midget. I can’t answer questions about the Orthodox faith like them, I don’t know how to pray like them and I certainly can’t sing like them. I can’t cook meals during Lent and I don’t have a clue how to make a Pascha basket. Where am I? Why have You brought me here? Is this something I can really do? Maybe I should just go to church on Sundays and be satisfied with that. I don’t think Peter knows I cried myself to sleep last night …

April 2, 2008 (Tuesday)

Dear Papa,

An idiot driver just about side-swiped me today on the way to work! I can’t stand people who drive really slow and then wander over into another lane like they are taking a stroll in a meadow or something. How hard is it to pay attention?! Why can’t everyone do what I do?!

My boss needed a file today and we looked in the staff cabinets to find it. She FINALLY noticed the horrible state of the filing system and said, “Now I know why you are having a hard time finishing the filing project I gave you.” I’m SO glad she saw for herself the horrible state in which “you-know-who” left everything. It’s a disaster! I could never work like that. My boss is extremely pleased with the way I’ve re-done her own files. “You-know-who” had absolutely no organization skills. The team has noticed, too; some of them have made comments about how I always know where everything is and am really efficient and tidy. I have my performance review soon and am quite sure I’ll get a good rating.

April 4, 2008 (Friday)

Dear Papa,

I know that comparing myself to my Orthodox sisters led me to discouragement and despair last weekend. Don’t really want to go back there. I want to remember what my friend Bob the Tomato in VeggieTales says, “God made you special and He loves you very much.” That means that I have something special to offer to the community of faith that no one else has. Will You show me what it is? Will you help me to offer it?

I know that speaking harshly against a stranger is wrong because James 4:12 says, “Who are you to judge another?” I have no idea what the woman driving that SUV was thinking or feeling when she almost smashed into me. And comparing myself to “you-know-who” is total pride. St. Basil the Great said, “Never place yourself above anyone, not even great sinners.” I really have to get over myself (yes, and go to confession!).

But, Papa, is it ALWAYS wrong to compare myself to someone else? How will I improve if I don’t look at others as a sort of benchmark? I need to see how another sister worships and prays in order to learn. I need to see that I’m better at something in order to help someone else improve. Ah – “in order to learn.” “In order to help…” Motive. Humility. Love. When I have the proper attitude, comparison will lead to improvement, not to despair and not to pride.

When I compare myself to Christ with the proper attitude, I will be humbled and I will truly worship. Which is the whole point.

4 comments:

Ina said...

Ironically when we compare ourselves with anyone else we are likely to always feel either defeated or prideful and in both situations the resulting action is one of the things we pray AGAINST in the Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim,--faint-heartedness/spiritual lethargy/'what's the use' mindset which leads to stopping all attempts at progress. Regardless of whether we stop due to despair or feeling we have already 'arrived' and do not need further 'progress', both ways the Enemy of our Souls rejoices and the Savior of our Souls weeps. When we try to 'rank' ourselves compared to others may we always see an image of the Ladder of Divine Ascent, with the demons pulling off some even from the top of the ladder! Continuing to climb to the very end must be our goal regardless of who appears to be climbing near us at any given moment in time.

Ina2 said...

P.S. I just also wanted to point out that if we don't think the Great Deceiver is taunting us at every minute just imagine the golden throated/angelic voiced Jeanine being
lead to despair over her gorgeous, God-delightful singing which leads the sopranos so perfectly every Sunday!!! Thank you again Jeanine for sharing your tender heart and your fabulous voice to God's Glory!!! It is a continual encouragement to me.

Debra Mattingly AACPL said...

Thanks, Jeanine. It will be 10 years this Pascha for the Mattinglys to be "Orthodox." And I am still learning 'how to be Orthodox.' Hopefully I'll still be learning until the day I die.

And Thank you so very much for helping me in the soprano section of the choir.

May you have a blessed Lent. And everyone you ask will tell you a little about a Pascha basket and each will be different. :-) The Holy Cross cookbook has some ideas.

Love in Christ.

Frederica said...

Sometimes in church I look around and see who's there, and every person I look at I think, "He is a better Christian than I am" "She is a better Christian than I am." Everyone I see has a purer love for God, and they try hard to be kind to others, they are generous and patient, and they actually pay attention to worship--while I am having a good day if I can finish a single Jesus Prayer without getting distracted in the middle. I give thanks to God for all of you. You inspire me.

I hope this kind of comparison is not the bad kind Fr Tom is talking about. It doesn't make me feel discouraged, but, in a way, amused at myself. I keep in mind the 23rd psalm, that God's mercy will pursue me all the days of my life--he just keeps on pursuing me, foolish as I am. And youall keep me hopeful that I can get better with time.

The Forty Maxims

  • 1. Be always with Christ and trust God in everything.
  • 2. Pray, fast and do acts of mercy.
  • 3. Read the Scriptures regularly.
  • 4. Read good books, a little at a time.
  • 5. Practice silence, inner and outer.
  • 6. Cultivate communion with the saints.
  • 7. Be an ordinary person, one of the human race.
  • 8. Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time.
  • 9. Be honest, first of all with yourself.
  • 10. Be faithful in little things.
  • 11. Do your work, then forget it.
  • 12. Do the most difficult and painful things first.
  • 13. Face reality.
  • 14. Be grateful.
  • 15. Be cheerful.
  • 16. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.
  • 17. Never bring unnecessary attention to yourself.
  • 18. Listen when people talk to you.
  • 19. Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are.
  • 20. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.
  • 21. Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly.
  • 22. Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis.
  • 23. Flee carnal things at their first appearance.
  • 24. Don’t complain, grumble, murmur or whine.
  • 25. Don’t seek or expect pity or praise.
  • 26. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.
  • 27. Don’t judge anyone for anything.
  • 28. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.
  • 29. Don’t defend or justify yourself.
  • 30. Be defined and bound by God, not people.
  • 31. Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully.
  • 32. Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty.
  • 33. Be strict with yourself.
  • 34. Be merciful with yourself and others.
  • 35. Do nothing for people that they can do for themselves.
  • 36. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.
  • 37. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.
  • 38. Endure the trial of yourself and your faults serenely, under God’s mercy.
  • 39. When you fall, get up immediately and start over.
  • 40. Get help when you need it, without fear or shame.