By Erin K.
Years ago, when our family lived in the suburbs of Chicago, my husband was given tickets to a Cubs game. Now before I continue, I feel the need for complete transparency: I am not a sports fan. Like, not at all. I can’t even tell you the names of five players on any of the major teams of all the sports—combined, but even I couldn’t pass down an opportunity to enjoy a beautiful summer day in the Windy City with my favorite guy. I threw on a blue shirt so I would have a less likely chance of getting mugged on the Metra and joined my hubs for a relaxing day in the iconic Wrigley Stadium.
However, as soon as my plate of overly priced nachos was gone, the initial excitement wore off (about the middle of the first inning.) I lost interest in the action on the field and instead indulged in my favorite activity: people watching.
My gaze took in the usuals you’d expect to see in the crowd. There were the die-hard, emblem-wearing vocals who left the stadium hoarse from their cheers and groans. Then I noticed the quiet, reserved stoics who soak in each play and rarely display emotions—except during especially intense moments of action.
But that day a certain fan caught my eye. This lady was intense. Not only was she sporting logos on everything she wore (Seriously, who knew there were cub crocs?) she had a pencil and a scorecard in hand. This Cubby chose to take part in as much action as possible by keeping track of all the players, their stats, and the runs scored in every inning. Throughout the rest of the game, she kept a running play-by-play of the action around her, meticulously tracking the activity of the players on the field. While I admire this lady’s well-defined discipline during the game, a similar hobby often takes place in our lives.
Too many times we keep scorecards in our minds. But instead of players, they list the names of friends, family, or church members around us. Instead of stats or RBIs, we track things like financial success, personal victories, or Instagram pictures. With each new victory, or social media post we see, we mentally place a tally mark next to their names on our little scorecard, and a seed of discontentment and pride is planted.
At first, our scorekeeping seems inconsequential; we roll our eyes and scroll on by their Facebook or Instagram posts, sometimes mumbling a quick comment under our breath. But with each negative interaction, the seeds sprout, and our relationship with them weakens.
And then—often when we least expect it—all of their “tally marks” rush into the forefront of our minds. We are reminded of every time that person has outshined us, made a jab at us or spoken to us, or about us.
Those little seeds of discontentment have been growing roots in our hearts, and they begin to creep into our minds and emotions. Whenever that person pops into our minds, feelings of bitterness and frustration follow close behind. We begin to see that person in a negative light. Everything that an individual says or does now seems like a target pointed directly at us. If left unchecked, we can begin to lose sleep over the situation. They become our all-consuming focus. No matter what we do, we just can’t let them go.
What was once a seemingly harmless thought has grown into deeply rooted bitterness and envy, whose fruit displays itself in our lives as anger, slander, and malice toward that individual. Pretty soon, everyone around us knows the score that we have been keeping.
Is it any wonder that before Paul’s command in Ephesians 4:32 to be “kind and compassionate” and to “forgive” one another, he urged the Ephesians to get rid of the bitterness in their lives (4:31)? True forgiveness and restored relationships WILL NOT BE POSSIBLE unless the weeds of envy have been pulled out of our hearts—roots and all.
Do you have an issue with someone? Is there a competition between you and a friend? Is there someone who just gets under your skin? Do you see the constant error in an individual and feel urged to constantly correct them? Is the envy and frustration in your heart crowding out the fruits of the Spirit that God is trying to display in you?
Ask for God’s grace to rip the bitterness and envy out of your heart. Begin to pray for the person you are struggling with, and I mean really pray for them. Ask God to give you a love for them.
Remember: God sees all believers on the playing field the same; through the blood of His Son. Let’s strive to see each other that way as well.