I am in the process of unraveling my anxiety, as though I have the capacity to do so.
Anxiety results when being caught in the cycle of comparison. I do not have a full time job secured for after college. I do not know the future of my relationships. I do not feel secure in any sense of the word. I become shaky, sometimes feeling I don’t have enough to give or don’t have the capacity to absorb goodness from people or God.
It is stressful to think of my ability to love in terms of “who needs it” or how I “should” love better or more frequently. Thanks to Chip Ingram’s podcast, Spiritual Simplicity, I am learning that comparing myself to others does not allow me to love. Thanks to Eagle Brook Church, I am learning that God does not ask us to decide who needs love, we just need to choose obedience to love (both friends and enemies).
To love means to celebrate a person for his or her differences. Appreciating differences means that one does not become easily angered, or envious, or boastful. Love accepts. Even when love is wronged, it keeps no record of wrongs, but forgives. This all sounds oversimplified and easily drags questions behind it. For instance: when is it loving to be tolerant and when does tolerance turn to enabling? Should I just forgive that person abusing me and pretend it never happened? These are issues of boundaries and trust, subsections of love that I won’t dig into today.
But love can be simple; difficult to do, but simple in concept.
First you have to know who you want to be remembered as. Make sure that you decide how to cope or react to challenges and opportunities. Reactions define you. Do you want to be remembered as the workaholic who always needed one grade higher on the last exam? Or do you want to be known as the hider who never risked love out of fear of rejection? I should hope not.
Next, you have to care. You don’t have to worry about other people. You don’t have to take their burdens or want them to be happy at all possible times. However, it’s important that you know how a person is feeling and that the person knows you could sympathize with him or her. Love makes no difference when there is no trust behind it. Build trust through honesty, be honest with yourself and your intentions and have honesty in desiring to value or know another person.
In short, if you find yourself jealous, angry, resentful, bitter, or asking “God, why me?” then you are comparing yourself upward, feeling that others are better than you due to their character or circumstances. In response, it is easy to kill your current desires, or resent your emotions. This is bad. Emotions are the “dashboard” of your life. If your check engine light is on, don’t smack it. Check it out, dig a little deeper. Talk it out. Be vulnerable enough to allow healing.
One alternative to jealousy is to be zealous. Don’t squelch unmet desires, instead re-direct them. If you are bitter that your relationships are bad, don’t resort to being trapped or getting out. Don’t just avoid negative emotions, pursue values that cause positive transformation. Thoughts become feelings and feelings become behavior; don’t change your feelings, change your thoughts and how you cope with emotions. Set goals, accept help. Most of all, don’t skim over the power of prayer. Even when you are too weak to make the progress you want, God wants growth for you more than you want it for yourself.