05 March 2014

Ash Wednesday: Let Envy Die

I'm a firm believer in the potential of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.) to influence the world for good.  There are simply more stories out there that point to the benefit of instant connections than there are stories of how things can go wrong.  That being said, one of the things I'm trying this Lent is getting on top of one of my biggest social media problems:  envy.

Maybe this has happened to you:  it's late at night, you're ready to sleep, but you're scanning through Facebook or Twitter, reading what your friends have been up to and thinking, Why am I not doing this?  This entire day was an absolute waste!  Never mind that it's a Thursday night and you've already put in over 40 hours in the week with more to go before Friday is done (not to mention Sunday for those of us who work for the church):  the green-eyed monster has reared its ugly head yet again.  Or perhaps you look at the things your colleagues are doing and you wonder why you don't measure up, why you can't seem to get ahead, why no one notices the good work you're doing, why you aren't as successful as they are.

Star Wars fans might remember Luke Skywalker's first encounter with Yoda on the planet Dagobah in such a moment:
"This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things."
Sure, it's hokey movie dialogue, the sort of thing at which George Lucas excels, but Yoda was right about one thing:  mindfulness and the ability to focus on one's own time and place is a holy endeavor.  Envy will kill that mindfulness quicker than Han Solo can shoot Greedo (see what I did there?).  It will kill it fast and in its place raise a monster that can never be satisfied.

So my discipline this Lent, and ongoing afterwards, is to check my envy at the door when it comes to social media.  If I can't celebrate a friend's success, or evaluate the quality of a day against my own expectations without comparing it to others, I have lost my way.  After all, the reminder for all of us who take the ashes today is this:  no matter how "successful" we are, in the end we all go down to the dust.

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