We’re coming up on St. Patrick’s Day, when Irish and non-Irish alike will don green attire and celebrate through the weekend. Many people don’t know or have forgotten much about St. Patrick (yes, there was an actual person). His history does not seem important to the celebration anymore. His history has actually changed over the years (there appears to be quite a bit of doubt surrounding the facts of his life). The holiday seems to have a liturgical and non-liturgical basis and following. It is a solemn day and a rowdy day. How does a vague holiday have such grand participation? There are actually competitions among cities and states to hold a better celebration for St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe that is the true ‘wearing o’ the green‘ – jealousy.
We are constantly in a state of comparison. We compare our houses and cars to our neighbors’. We compare our children’s grades to each other’s and to their friends. We compare our clothes, jobs, marriages….we’re always trying to measure up or to tear down. We want to know where we stand, and it had better be on top.
Competition is not a bad thing. It is where we can often find inspiration and fortitude. Being bested by someone can challenge us to improve and work harder. It can reveal our weaknesses, allowing us to put more energy into those areas and become stronger overall. But it can be a fine and wiggly line between healthy competition and jealous fervor. It is not easy to put your all into something and still lose, without feeling a twinge of why-couldn’t-it-be-me.
This is a time of year when jealousies can become very evident, as the spring brings new life all around us. Neighbors compare yards and gardens. Friends compare First Communion dresses and parties. Students compare grades. Brides compare…well…everything. It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to be the best, but did you ever ask yourself WHY? Is it about wanting good things for yourself (or family/friends) or do you just want to be better than someone else?
Comparison allows for categorization, which, in turn, brings about order. It’s a natural thing to want order in our world. Scientists will tell you that randomness seeks to order itself, even without outside influence to do so. Look at untouched landscapes desecrated by disasters that rejuvenate and sustain themselves over time, creating balanced eco-systems. Order out of chaos. This process of spontaneous order is how we have grown and developed as a culture. But there is a difference between order and ordered.
Creating a sense of order allows us to feel some control over our surroundings. We can make sense of things, create reasonable expectations. Allowing jealousies to create ordered classes within our mind does nothing more than push people down. We need to start thinking carefully about where our jealous feelings come from, and how they are changing our behaviors. We need to recognize that jealousy is bound in a person’s worth. Whether we are feeling jealous, or trying to make someone jealous, it is a statement about deservedness, one we have no right to make.
There is a difference between order and ordered. We need to teach our children how to see the difference.
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