Gloria*, a visiting friend from California, was having tea with me in my East Asian apartment, and discussing my recent conflicts with my American roommate, Anna* – But I felt defensive at Gloria’s gentle rebuke. What do you mean, I want people to fail? My roommate is the problem here, not me!
Fresh out of college, Anna had breezed into my life a few months earlier, bubbling over with enthusiasm. Everything about her new life in our small East Asian town was wonderful and exciting. Overnight, it seemed, Anna was “best friends” with the local staff and assistant teachers at our school. She loved all the students and they all loved her, especially her little kindergarteners, who used to be in my classes. Now Anna was their new favorite teacher.
I found myself becoming resentful toward Anna. I grumbled inwardly about how easy it was for her to make friends, how quickly her students came to love her, how effortlessly she seemed to transition into this foreign culture.
Gloria was right. I had started hoping Anna would fail. If she didn’t do well, it would make ME look better. After all, I’d been in this country for two years already. I’d been investing in these relationships day after day, week after week, month after month. I’d been teaching these kids way before she got there, and would most likely continue teaching them long after she left. This was MY territory. I was used to being the adored foreign English teacher. And I didn’t like having my throne upset by this perky new arrival.
But sadly, I didn’t repent when Gloria confronted me. I felt I was justified in my feelings. So I stewed in my jealousy and resentment – and down the road, when Anna DID start to have problems with homesickness and culture shock and interpersonal conflicts… I secretly rejoiced.
It wasn’t until much later that I finally was convicted of my sinful attitude towards Anna. I realized that I had taken my eyes off the Lord and had been comparing myself with Anna. I needed to repent of my jealousy, and ask the Lord to forgive me for my prideful desire for attention and admiration. He did, and He gave me a whole new perspective (His Wisdom) towards Anna and the whole situation. It’s amazing how the Lord can transform your heart when you humble yourself and allow your appetite for significance to be satisfied in Him!
“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts…such wisdom does not come down from heaven…but the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere…”
James 3:14-18 (NIV)
* (not her real name)